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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Reid announces NI security cuts
The Northern Ireland secretary has announced the immediate demolition of British Army security bases following the IRA's decision to put some arms beyond use.

John Reid, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, also announced a reduction in troop levels as the "security situation improves".

He said it was part of a "rolling programme" of security normalisation, following the IRA's announcement which has breathed new life into the peace process.

In a separate development, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble announced he was re-nominating his party's three ministers to the Stormont executive.

Meanwhile, Dr Reid said work had already started to demolish four key security installations.


Our aim is to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements

John Reid

He said the demolition of two towers in south Armagh began on Wednesday.

He added work to demolish an army base at in Magherafelt, in County Derry, and security installations at Newtownhamilton, would begin on Thursday.

Demilitarisation was a key demand from Sinn Fein during discussions before the breakthrough.

Dr Reid said: "Our aim is to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements."

He told MPs that the arms put beyond use by the IRA included arms, ammunition and explosives.

Dr Reid said the IRA's move was "unprecedented and genuinely historic - it takes the peace process onto a new political level".

The RUC chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, has said the start of decommissioning and the IRA's "attitude" to the peace process had altered the security situation.

He said recent developments had meant a "significant" reduction in the threat which had "allowed us to take these instant steps".

Click here for a map of the key area

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the Commons the start of IRA decommissioning was the "the day when people understood finally that the gun and bomb have no place whatsoever in the future of Northern Ireland."

Mr Blair has said loyalist paramilitaries must now begin to decommission.


Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who reminded the Commons that he had patrolled Northern Ireland's streets as a soldier, said the threat posed by dissident groups remained "very high".

Mr Duncan Smith welcomed Tuesday's developments as significant but stressed it was vital the IRA's move was not a one-off gesture.

On Wednesday morning, the prime minister's official spokesman indicated a reduction in 13,000 troops currently based in Northern Ireland "when the threat-level" allows.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who withdrew his three ministers from the power-sharing executive last week, has announced that he has re-nominated them to their departments of government at Stormont.

He had to do this before midnight on Thursday to avoid suspension of the devolved administration.

He has called a meeting of his party's ruling executive on Saturday to ask it to approve the reconstituting of the executive.

He needs the backing of the executive to ensure his move back into government with republicans is party policy, forcing critics of the policy to fall into line.

Meanwhile, Lagan Valley Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the party should retain the option to leave government again if there were no further IRA moves on arms.

Logjam

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said the issue of arms should now be left with General John de Chastelain's international decommissioning body.

Mr Adams said Tuesday's move by the IRA should now leave the way clear for the political impasse to be broken and real progress to be made.

"We got this initiative because the IRA wanted to save the process despite the way it was being handled," he said.

The international body charged with dealing with paramilitary weapons confirmed on Tuesday that it had witnessed the IRA put a quantity of arms beyond use which it described as "significant".

The material included arms, ammunition and explosives, it said.

Meanwhile, the two international figures who acted as arms inspectors before the de Chastelain decommissioning body and the IRA became fully engaged, have stepped down from that role.

Martti Ahtisaari and Cyril Ramaphosa, who carried out a number of checks on IRA arms dumps, said their task had ended with the completion of the IRA's first step to put arms beyond use.

The two said they warmly welcomed the IRA move which they described as a substantial and significant development in the peace process.

Confirming its move, the IRA described its decision as an "unprecedented" decision to save the peace process and a demonstration to others of its genuine intentions.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Brain
reports on the demolition of British Army security bases
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"We now have to try and build in yesterday...and that is what I did"
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable of RUC
"We will continue to work flat out"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble's ministers to return
23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Tony Blair's statement in full
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
US congratulates IRA on 'historic' decision
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Bush welcomes IRA arms move
24 Oct 01 | World
World press review
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