IRA begins to decommission arms

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

LONDON -- The Irish Republican Army put an unknown quantity of its guns and explosives "beyond use" Tuesday, an unprecedented step that satisfied the leader of Northern Ireland's main Protestant party and injected fresh hope into a faltering peace process.

An international disarmament commission confirmed that it had witnessed the IRA "put a quantity of arms completely beyond use." That included arms, ammunition and explosives, the commission said.

The commission wouldn't disclose how many weapons, how or when the process was carried out, or when the IRA might complete the disposal of an arsenal which had sustained 30 years of bloodshed. It said revealing those details would not help further the disarmament process.

In a statement, the IRA said its motivation was clear: "This unprecedented move is to save the peace process and to persuade others of our genuine intentions."

David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said the IRA step was good enough for him, and that he would urge his party to rejoin the Northern Ireland government next week.

"This is the day we were told would never happen. This is the day we were told we would never see," a smiling Trimble said.

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