Sunday Life

Signs point to end of the Provos

19 September 2004

A MAJOR statement announcing the disposal of IRA weapons and the end of the terror's group's 'military campaign' is expected from republicans this week.

And the 'our war is over' message from the Provos is expected to break the political stalemate by Christmas, and lead to the restoration of the Stormont Assembly by January.

Participants at Leeds Castle talks chaired by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have been advised to expect a significant development from the IRA, which will meet the demands of unionists.

It is not clear if the statement will be made by the IRA, or through Sinn Fein.

But summit participants have been told to anticipate a statement of major significance, from the republican movement.

The Rev Ian Paisley said yesterday he was too long in the tooth to believe the content of a statement from the IRA.

But the DUP leader said he would hold judgment until decommissioning was achieved.

Members of the DUP have been told that agreement has been reached between the two governments and the IRA for the delivery of a formal announcement from the terrorist organisation, which should satisfy unionist demands for a clarification that the IRA will cease to exist.

One DUP party source said: "It's not clear when the statement will actually be made, but we have been told it will be delivered very shortly, and that thereafter events will move very quickly, and that we will see major disarmament by the Provos.

"Other matters relating to ministerial accountability in the Assembly, which are outstanding, will be addressed through other discussions, and we expect they can be resolved without enormous difficulty."

The DUP source said optimism was being expressed that all outstanding issues discussed at Leeds Castle could be resolved by Christmas, with a restoration of the Stormont Assembly pencilled in for January 2005.

"A lot depends on what the IRA is prepared to say next week and, more importantly, do, but we have been given certain indications which, if fulfilled, will resolve the most difficult political issues raised in the Castle.".

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams insisted IRA disarmament had not been the reason why the talks failed.

He hit out at the DUP for refusing to make any sort of compromise.

"The IRA is not the problem," the West Belfast MP said.

"It's an unwillingness of elements of political unionism to embrace a process of change."

The Sinn Fein chief also claimed the Government had finally agreed to end delays over setting up an inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane.

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