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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 21:09 GMT
IRA breaks contact with arms body
IRA mural in Belfast
IRA blamed British Government for crisis
The IRA has suspended its contact with the international decommissioning body.

The move was announced in an IRA statement on Wednesday afternoon.

It said it had taken the decision to stop engaging with General John de Chastelain's organisation because the British Government had "by its own admission" not kept its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

But in the statement issued through the republican newspaper An Phoblacht, the IRA said it remained "committed to the search for a just and lasting peace".

NI Secretary Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy: "Regrettable, but not surprising"

Blaming the Government for the current political crisis in Northern Ireland, the IRA said: "The British Government says that responsibility for this present crisis and its resolution lies with us and there is an effort to impose unacceptable and untenable ultimatums on the IRA.

"At the same time the British Government, by its own admission, has not kept its commitments.

"The onus is on the British Government and others to create confidence in this process. They can do this by honouring their obligations."

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said the IRA move "while not surprising, is regrettable and disappointing".

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that all paramilitary activity needs to come to an end if the political process is to succeed," he added.

General de Chastelain said he is disappointed by the IRA's decision.

"To do our job properly we have to be able to communicate with the people who have arms and we hope the suspension will last as short a time as possible," he said.

Similar move

The latest statement by the IRA follows the suspension of Northern Ireland devolution on 14 October.

The political institutions were suspended by the Northern Ireland secretary because of a row over allegations of IRA activity including spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
David Trimble: Our position has been vindicated"

It is not the first time the IRA has broken off contact with General de Chastelain's body.

Four days after former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson suspended the Stormont Assembly in February 2000, the IRA announced they would no longer co-operate with the IICD.

But a month after Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble agreed to re-enter power-sharing government with Sinn Fein in May 2000, arms inspectors Cyril Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisaari revealed they had been taken to IRA dumps.

Since then the IRA has undertaken two acts of decommissioning - in October 2001 and then again in April this year.

'Negotiating tactic'

Ulster Unionist leader and former first minister, David Trimble, said the IRA move "further vindicates our decision to force the suspension of the institutions".

He added: "This comes as no surprise. It has been obvious for months that the IRA has not been making progress on decommissioning.

"They are in breach of their obligations under the Agreement and have repeatedly broken their promises to the people of Northern Ireland."

Martin McGuinness said IRA move was reaction to government's failure
Martin McGuinness said IRA move was reaction to government's failure

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell told the Irish broadcaster RTE he believed it was an insignificant "tactical step".

He said it was a "negotiating position and a distraction from the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement".

The IRA would have to re-engage with the arms body in time, he added.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the decision was part of the fall-out from the suspension of the assembly.

But he said: "Our focus remains the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is the task of political leaders to move the process on and get the political institutions back up and running."

'Nonsence'

Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Ian Paisley junior said the claimed the move proved the IRA was never committed to disarmament.

"We don't know what was decommissioned, where or when," he said. "This resignation from a nonsense body is a nonsense itself."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the IRA move was part of the "same sort of tit-for-tat, now you see it, now you don't" tactics which had been used throughout the process.

It was now time for the political parties to get into talks to try to resolve the current political crisis, he added.

PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde said was disappointing, but that the biggest threat continued to be from loyalist paramilitaries and that was where his policing efforts were focussed.

Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne said the Irish police force would "take it in our stride".

But he added: "There's a continuing sense of urgency in relation to searching for weapons wherever they are stored."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Gardner
"The term suspension could be the key word in the IRA statement"
BBC NI security editor Brian Rowan
"The IRA said it had suspended contact because the government has not honoured its commitments"
The BBC's Denis Murray reports from Belfast
"The IRA has done this at least once already"

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See also:

30 Oct 02 | N Ireland
19 Oct 02 | N Ireland
18 Oct 02 | Politics
18 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
19 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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