Clergy say IRA decommissioning methods can serve as model

The methods used in decommissioning the Irish Republican Army's paramilitary arsenal can serve as a model for peacekeepers elsewhere in the world, according to the two clergymen who witnessed the destruction of thousands of guns and hundreds of pounds of explosives.

CLICK HERECatholic News Service reports that Fr Alex Reid, a member of the Redemptorist peace mission in Belfast, and the Rev. Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, acted as independent witnesses to the destruction of handguns, rifles, automatic weapons, machine guns, surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, explosives and bomb-making equipment.

The priest and minister witnessed the activities of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, set up in 1998 following the Good Friday Agreement. For the last two months, following the IRA's announcement that it was ending its armed campaign, the three-member decommissioning team has been accepting weapons held in secret arms dumps across Ireland and Northern Ireland.

At a press conference in Belfast on Monday, Canadian General John de Chastelain, head of the decommissioning commission, said he believes IRA members have put their weapons beyond use. Rev. Good read a joint statement in which the two clergymen supported the general's report.

"We are certain about the exactitude of this report because we spent many days watching the meticulous and painstaking way in which Gen. de Chastelain, (Finnish) Brig. Gen. Tauno Nieminen and (US diplomat) Andrew Sens went about decommissioning the huge amounts of explosives, arms and ammunition that they have described in their statement," Rev. Good said.

"The experience of seeing this with our own eyes, on a minute-to-minute basis, provided us with evidence so clear and of its nature so incontrovertible that, at the end of the process, it demonstrated to us -- and would demonstrate to anyone who might have been with us -- that beyond any shadow of doubt the arms of the IRA have been decommissioned," he said.

"In light of this, and in order to create universal confidence, we wish to assure everyone, but especially those in Northern Ireland who may yet have misgivings, that the decommissioning of the arms of the IRA is now an accomplished fact," he said.

Catholic bishops from Northern Ireland commended the work of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

"Today's announcement is a vindication of the efforts undertaken by all those who have, over the years, courageously worked to replace violence with dialogue," the bishops said in a statement on Monday.

"We hope that all who exercise leadership will continue to affirm the political process as the means to resolve any remaining issues in the search for peace. We call on all other paramilitary groups to affirm their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means," they said.

Clergy say IRA decommissioning methods can serve as model for others (Catholic News Service 27/9/05)

Catholic doctor awarded 20,000 (BBC 28/9/05)
Catholic doctor awarded 20,000 in discrimination case (UTV 28/9/05)
Bishops' welcome IICD announcement on IRA decommissioning (Catholic Communications Ireland 26/9/05)

29 Sep 2005