Sunday Independent

Dissidents threaten new IRA split over decommissioning

Jim Cusack and
Jody Corcoran

THE chances of achieving a last-ditch breakthrough in talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP have been hit by a threat from a small number of disgruntled rural members of the Provisional IRA to break away if any further decommissioning of the IRA's arsenal takes place.

The dissident terrorists have issued a statement saying that the IRA and Sinn Fein leadership swore in 1997 that the arsenal would never be decommissioned and are insisting they stick to this promise.

The statement, however, failed to take account of the reality of the Good Friday Agreement, in which Sinn Fein actually signed up to decommissioning.

A small group of Provisional IRA members state that if decommissioning takes place it will break away and form a new IRA. It appears the group have already established links with dissidents in either the Continuity or Real IRA.

Yesterday's development did not come as a surprise in government circles in Dublin. Reliable sources said the statement had always been anticipated. Government sources also cautioned against developing pessimism that the DUP would not accept the deal on offer.

Even yesterday, they said, there were increased grounds for optimism that Dr Ian Paisley's party would indeed go for the deal.

The DUP leader Ian Paisley was encouraged to enter into the deal during a telephone conversation with the President George Bush last week.

If there is no agreement this week the negotiations in the North are expected to go into hibernation until after the upcoming British elections.

It is understood that the deal currently on the table in Belfast involves the IRA giving permission for the international arms inspector, General John de Chastelain to issue an inventory of the IRA's decommissioning.

Once this list of armaments was verified, and photographs of the actual act of decommissioning published for general release, the DUP would agreed to share power with Sinn Fein.

Yesterday the DUP leaders said they were to meet the head of Northern Ireland's independent disarmament body before saying whether they will accept or reject plans to revive power-sharing.

After a meeting of its executive on Friday night, the DUP said it would analyse the latest British and Irish government proposals to achieve total IRA disarmament and resurrect the Assembly.

In their statement, the IRA figures - believed to be based in Tyrone, Down and Antrim - accused the republican leadership of standing "before countless IRA army council meetings, army executive meetings, army conventions and even low-level meetings with grass-roots and told volunteers that the IRA would never surrender its weapons."

It went on: "Never in the centuries-old history of Irish republicanism have IRA soldiers contemplated the humiliation of defeat or surrender by destroying its weapons at the behest of our enemy the British.

"During the Eighties huge amounts of weapons were smuggled into Ireland for the purpose of intensifying the war in the six counties, mainland UK and in Europe - but, unknown to the army's rank-and-file, some of our trusted leaders were secretly conducting negotiations with British officials without the authorisation of the army executive.

"At no time throughout all the years of secret deals and negotiations did the Irish government make the surrender of weapons a condition for the establishment of all-party peace talks, decommissioning has always been a key British/Unionist demand and Sinn Fein leaders have been quite comfortable with it on the negotiating table."

It is believed the main IRA arms dumps are controlled by a Co Cavan man who holds the title of IRA Quarter Master General and who is a key supporter of Gerry Adams.

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