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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
'Substantial' arms move by IRA
The IRA has put more of its arsenal out of action in a move which has been described as "substantial" by the international arms body.

In a statement on Monday, the IRA said it had taken another initiative to put "arms beyond use" to "stabilise, sustain and strengthen" the Northern Ireland peace process.

The statement made no reference to either the type of weaponry or the quantity involved.

The IRA leadership has put a varied and substantial quantity of ammunition, arms and explosive material beyond use

International arms body

The move was confirmed by the international decommissioning body (IICD) which oversees the disposal of weapons as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Shortly after the announcement, the arms body issued a statement to the British and Irish Governments.

It said: "We wish to inform you that we have witnessed an event in which the IRA leadership has put a varied and substantial quantity of ammunition, arms and explosive material beyond use."

'Significant'

Speaking after the IICD report, Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid said: "This is very welcome news. It shows that last October's action by the IRA was not an isolated event."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said it was a "huge move" and demonstrated the IRA's commitment to the peace process.

"I believe this initiative will be welcomed by all people of goodwill. I believe the IRA is leading by example."

Speaking in the Czech capital Prague, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said "the news is immensely significant".

Comparing the Northern Ireland situation with the Middle East conflict, he added: "We can see the advantages of pursuing a political process."

Loyalists must realise that there is more urgency for them to start their own process

David Trimble
First Minister

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said he welcomed the announcement.

"We see this as a very significant event today and, as General De Chastelain said, it is a very important matter," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader and Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble said: "The fact that we have reached a second act of decommissioning is significant.

"Now we have got a process of decommissioning coming from republicans, loyalists must realise that there is more urgency for them to start their own process."

The move was also welcomed by SDLP leader and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan.

Mr Durkan said he endorsed General John De Chastelain's call for loyalist paramilitaries to engage with the arms body.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party has described the latest move by the IRA as "a stunt".

Deputy leader Peter Robinson said it was an "insignificant event" and that the unionist community still did not know how many guns were decommissioned the first time.

Speculation had been mounting over recent weeks that the IRA was about to make another move towards putting further weapons "beyond use".

The IRA statement said the move had been taken after "detailed discussions between our representative and the IICD".

John de Chastelain: Head of the decommissioning body
John de Chastelain confirmed latest IRA move

The first act of decommissioning came in October 2001

The latest move may be aimed at dismissing suggestions that the announcement last October was a stunt or a one-off event.

There had also been speculation that the IRA would move again on the arms issue closer to the Republic of Ireland's general election in May.

In recent weeks, Mr Trimble has been calling on republicans to prove that their first act of decommissioning was part of a process.

Earlier in March, the then Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan told a meeting of Northern Ireland's Policing Board he had no doubt an IRA arms move was being "considered".

Political process

None of the mainstream loyalist paramilitary organisations has made a firm commitment to decommission its weapons.

Weapons timeline


IRA announces ceasefire in August 1994
First IRA arms move announced in October 2001
Move verified by head of arms body
In March 2002 speculation mounts over new move
The ceasefires of two of the loyalist groups, the Ulster Defence Association and Loyalist Volunteer Force are no longer recognised by the government.

The first IRA's decommissioning move was confirmed by the head of the international decommissioning body, Canadian General John de Chastelain

The material in question included arms, ammunition and explosives.

The IRA said at the time it was an "unprecedented move".

It was the first time that a republican group which has violently resisted the British presence in Ireland had ever disposed of weaponry in this way.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
"This act strengthens the peace process"
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
"There remain gaps between the Good Friday agreement and what has been delivered"
Professor Henry Patterson, Ulster University
"We're a long way from the IRA going out of business"

Find out more about the IRA's history and watch archive BBC footage
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

08 Apr 02 | N Ireland
08 Apr 02 | N Ireland
15 Mar 02 | N Ireland
06 Mar 02 | N Ireland
23 Oct 01 | N Ireland
23 Oct 01 | N Ireland
14 Aug 01 | N Ireland
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