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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Will IRA move soon on arms?
Two children sit on a wall in Belfast by graffiti denouncing decommissioning
Decommissioning - debated on the streets
By BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan

"Everything is possible... something could happen early in the week."

This is the latest security assessment on a possible IRA arms move.

The senior source who spoke to me is watching the political comings and goings which are taking place in the background and is trying to assess what the IRA leadership will do.

Security sources believe the IRA is closer than ever before to making a significant move to put arms beyond use

That leadership is still considering the political advantages of such a move, and no decisions have yet been taken.

They will not be made until Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness finish what they are up to, in terms of their discussions with the British, Irish and American Governments and the Ulster Unionist leadership.

At time of writing, those negotiations continue.

The Adams/McGuinness focus stretches beyond the IRA's guns.

They are interested in a wider range of issues spanning policing, justice, demilitarisation and the future of the political institutions.

But soon a judgement is going to have to be made on those talks and what they deliver.

Gen John de Chastelain of the arms decommissioning body
John de Chastelain: Heads decommissioning body

Will it be good enough for the IRA?

There are no done deals, nothing is guaranteed, but security sources believe the IRA is closer than ever before to making a significant move to put arms beyond use.

If the IRA moves, the decommissioning body - headed by the Canadian General John de Chastelain - will become involved.

De Chastelain, who is due back in Northern Ireland this week, has a number of requirements.

These are:

  • If his commission is to verify an act of decommissioning, he wants to be there.
  • He wants to record in an inventory what weaponry has been put beyond use.
  • This will not be made public.
  • And he has to be satisfied that what he has witnessed renders weapons permanently unusable or permanently inaccessible.

    The de Chastelain commission is understood to be "fully engaged" with the IRA, and that organisation will know the commission's requirements.

    Up to now, the security assessment has pointed to a likely "army convention" - a meeting representative of the entire IRA organisation which rules on matters of major importance.

    Gerry Adams: Involved in intense negotiations
    Gerry Adams: Involved in intense negotiations

    Putting arms beyond use, would be one such issue.

    But, now, there is some new information.

    Security sources believe the IRA leadership, its seven-member army council, could move on weapons without calling the convention.

    A republican source said any decision on arms would be a strategic one, based on the future of the peace process and republican needs.

    On this huge issue for republicans, the IRA leadership is certain to be keeping its membership informed.

    Is everything really possible? Could something happen early this week?

    We will know very soon.

  • Assembly back

    IRA arms breakthrough


    Loyalist ceasefire





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