29 July 2005

Army begins dismantling its posts

BBC


The army has begun dismantling posts in south Armagh

The Army has begun dismantling a number of security posts and bases in south Armagh following the IRA's statement saying it had ended its armed campaign.

A base at Forkhill will close, while a watchtower at Sugarloaf Mountain and an observation post at Newtownhamilton police station will also be removed.

The British and Irish governments are considering the next steps to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

An updated programme of "security normalisation" will be published soon.

Commenting on the posts' closure, the Army's general officer commanding, Lieutenant General Sir Reddy Watt, said: ''In light of yesterday's developments, the chief constable and I have decided that a further reduction in security profile is possible.''

Sinn Fein has welcomed the move.

"The start made today must be built upon in the days and weeks ahead, not just in south Armagh but across the six counties," Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy said.

"The demilitarisation of communities is an important element in consolidating the progress already made and ensuring that we build a new future free from conflict and division."

However, unionists have reacted angrily to the news.

The DUP's Arlene Foster said it was "criminally irresponsible".

"It's startling that when the IRA give a statement saying they will stop what they should never have been doing, that the government acts so soon," she said.

The UUP's Danny Kennedy said it was outrageous that the government had "foolishly decided to act on IRA words alone".

'Witnesses'

The DUP is also demanding that pictures are taken of IRA weapons being destroyed as proof.

However, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he believed photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning was not necessary.

Mr Ahern said it was "significant" that "witnesses from both traditions will be involved".

"The carrying out of these IRA commitments will have to be objectively verified by the appropriate bodies," he added.

The British government also intends to introduce legislation in the autumn to allow paramilitary fugitives to return home.



In a statement released on Wednesday, the IRA said it would pursue exclusively peaceful means.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has indicated he is ready to push forward with a number of measures which were put on ice after the failure to achieve a breakthrough leading to the restoration of devolution in 2003.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said government ministers would now expect to see some major acts of disarmament.

"On the political front, there may be a brief lull during August, but discussions are expected to get under way in earnest in September.

"The DUP remains openly sceptical," he said.

"But the government hopes that if the IRA is as good as its word, positive reports from the four-strong commission which monitors paramilitary activity will encourage unionists to seriously engage with republicans sometime early next year."

The IRA statement, released on Thursday, said: "All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the move was a "courageous and confident initiative" and that the moment must be seized.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the statement, ending 30 years of violence, was a "step of unparalleled magnitude".

Mr Hain said a return to devolved government at Stormont would not happen soon.

But - eventually - he would like to see the leader of the Democratic Unionists, the Reverend Ian Paisley, as the first minister.

Republicans had been under intense pressure to end IRA activity after the £26.5m Northern Bank raid in December and the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January.

Political talks last year failed to restore devolution, which stalled amid claims of IRA intelligence gathering at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in 2002.

The Provisional IRA's campaign of violence was aimed at forcing an end to the British presence in Northern Ireland, leading to a united Ireland.

Comments:
As a poster (and friend of mine) stated on the 'IRBB ' -
'The Brits looking for a clap on the back for removing something that should not have been there in the first place .'

They should get the hell out of this country altogether .

Sharon.
 
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