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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
IRA looks 'set to deliver'
After Gerry Adams' recommendation to the IRA for a "ground-breaking" move on arms, BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Mark Simpson examines some of the questions which remain to be answered once the IRA make their expected response.

The unthinkable now seems inevitable.

After years of republicans stubbornly resisting decommissioning, the IRA seems ready to deliver.

When it happens, it will be seen in republican circles as historic, unprecedented and a huge confidence-boost to the peace process.

But it is the reaction of others which will determine just how big a boost it really is.

The aim of the IRA in putting some of its weapons beyond use would be to stabilise the political process, and to keep the assembly - plus the cross-border bodies - alive.

But for that to happen, unionists will have to be convinced that the IRA move deserves a political payback.

Sceptic

Some will prove harder to convince than others.

"I'll not be happy until decommissioning ends. A start is not enough," said one sceptical Ulster Unionist.


The response Sinn Fein wants is for the Ulster Unionist Party to reappoint its ministers to the power-sharing executive

But another party member, who is a member of the assembly, takes a different view.

"The IRA used to say 'not an ounce, not a bullet'. Decommissioning is something they said would never happen. But if it does happen, then we must respond positively," said the assemblyman.

The response Sinn Fein wants is for the Ulster Unionist Party to reappoint its ministers to the power-sharing executive, and for David Trimble to put himself forward again for the position of first minister. (He resigned on 1 July in protest at the absence of IRA decommissioning).

The UUP are adopting a "wait and see" attitude. They will decide their next move, once they know what the IRA has done on the weapons front.

Huge pressure

If actual decommissioning occurs, as seems likely, unionists will come under huge pressure to keep devolution afloat.

Republicans have taken heart from a statement issued by the Church of Ireland Primate, Dr Robin Eames, last week.

He said: "Responses to decommissioning will be as important as decommissioning itself."


For the moment, the spotlight is not on David Trimble, but on the republican movement

However, even if David Trimble wants to return as first minister, he will have a battle on his hands.

To be elected, he requires the support of a majority of unionists in the assembly, and that cannot be taken for granted, given the current split within unionism.

For the moment, the spotlight is not on David Trimble, but on the republican movement.

Two questions remain - exactly when are the IRA going to move? And is the move going to be enough to rescue the peace process?

The answers will be known very soon.


Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

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Loyalist ceasefire

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See also:

22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Adams urges IRA action over arms
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: IRA arms move
09 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Adams: Do not suspend assembly
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