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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 19:14 GMT
Q&A IRA breaks contact
BBC NI security editor Brian Rowan answers questions on the significance of the IRA's statement announcing it is to suspend its contact with the International Independent Decommissioning Commission.

What does the statement say?

That the IRA has suspended its contact with the decommissioning body because the British Government has not honoured its commitments.

It says the onus is on the British Government and others to create confidence in the process.

It also makes a reference to "unacceptable and untenable ultimatums" being made on the IRA.

That appears to be a reference to the demands for the IRA's disbandment.

What does it mean?

The IRA is not going to disappear at the wave of a British or unionist magic wand. So it is not surprising that the IRA finds a call for its disbandment unacceptable.

If you look at the pattern of the past, very few people are going to be surprised by the news that the IRA has suspended its contact with the International Independent Commission for Decommissioning because it has done it before.

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.

Then in August 2001 the IRA for the first time agreed with the de Chastelain commission a method for putting IRA arms beyond use.

There was a period of suspension around then, and the IRA withdrew that proposal from the table.

Has the IRA broken off contact for good this time?

The IRA has not ended its contact with de Chastelain. It has said it has suspended it.

There has been a pattern that after this contact has been broken off, it has resumed contact.

Is this an attempt by the IRA to establish a negotiating position?

When the process has gone well, the IRA has been in contact with de Chastelain.

It has been a roller coaster ride and the IRA has withdrawn from the de Chastelain talks when the dips have come.

But twice now - in October 2001 and April 2002 - the IRA has put arms beyond use and we know that if this process is going to be put back together again the IRA is going to have to do something more than they have done up to now.

And that is going to require the IRA to be back in touch with de Chestelain again.

What can we expect next?

What the IRA is making clear in this statement, is that whatever happens from here, it is not going to be a one-way process with demands being made of the IRA.

There are many issues, which Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams spelled out in his speech in Monaghan last weekend, that from a republican point of view need to be addressed.

These include policing, demilitarisation and republicans who are still on the run. So there is going to have to be talks some time in the future to put this process together again which will not consist of people making demands of the IRA.

Republicans are going to be making demands as well. And they made it very clear in this statement that the onus is on the British Government and others to create confidence in this process.

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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