01 October 2005

Are Sam 7’s in destroyed IRA arsenal?

Impartial Reporter

**Via News Hound

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“Total” decommissioning does not cut much ice with the IRA’s victims in Fermanagh nor security sources concerned that dissidents still hold weapons and explosives that have a deadly capability.

There are still a number of terrorists in the county who regard the destruction of any republican guns and explosives as a betrayal and surrender.

A former senior RUC officer reckons a significant proportion of former Provisional IRA men have jumped camp and are now operating within the Continuity and Real IRA.

“They (the dissidents) would be very keen to continue the armed struggle. Certainly they have the capability,” he stated.

He pointed out that in the past 11 years the dissidents have carried out a series of attacks in Fermanagh. They were responsible for bombing the former Castle Cineworld and Mirage Nightclub Complex in Enniskillen, the Carrybridge, Killyhevlin and Mahon’s Hotels, the Customs and Excise office on the Killyhevlin Industrial Estate, Enniskillen Townhall and most recently Rosslea Police Station.

The security forces also intercepted a “barrack buster” mortar in a van at Teemore. Three men were apprehended and are currently serving lengthy prison sentences in relation to that incident.

On Monday the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning reported that the IRA’s massive arsenal of guns, explosives and ammunition had been put beyond use in an operation lasting several days.

The head of the Decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain said the amount of weapons destroyed was consistent with British and Irish security force estimates of the arms held by the IRA. It included rifles, handguns, flame throwers, rocket propelled grenades and surface to air missiles.

The decommissioning was witnessed by the Rev. Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Rev. Alec Reid, a Redemptorist priest. They said the process demonstrated to them that “beyond any shadow of a doubt” the arms of the IRA had been decommissioned.

The thought that any Sam 7 missiles might still be in circulation rather than encased in concrete in some secret bunker would send a nervous shiver through security chiefs. Bought in the United States, it was the most sophisticated weapon ever to fall into the hands of the IRA. In the history of the Troubles it was used only once and that was in an attack on an army Wessex helicopter patrolling the Border near Kinawley. Had it hit its target the army would have been forced to ground its helicopters. That would have left them with a security nightmare as to how to operate in republican areas in relative safety. At the time no details of the incident were made public. It has since emerged that the pilot saw a flash and took evasive action. The heat-seeking missile missed its target but according to one source “it was damn close.” The tail fin of the weapon was recovered in a follow-up search.

Without a detailed inventory it is impossible to know if all Sam 7s have been put beyond use or if there are any others out there, possibly in the hands of dissidents.

That has left people like Alan Madill of the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims’ group sceptical about decommissioning. In an interview on the BBC he expressed his distrust in the view that the IRA had put all its weapons beyond use.

On the same programme Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described Mr. Madill, a former member of the RUC, as a “former combatant,” and offered to meet him to discuss the issue. Mr. Madill could not be contacted this week to see if he would take up the offer.

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