A father and son walk through Belfast, Northern Ireland, after the announcement that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had decommissioned all its weapons.
Two prominent Northern Ireland clergy chosen to monitor a key part of an internationally-backed peace process say that “beyond any shadow of doubt” the arms of the Irish Republican Army have now been put beyond use.
Rev. Harold Good, a Methodist minister, and Rev. Alec Reid, a Roman Catholic priest, witnessed the recent act of decommissioning by the IRA in which the armed group put all its remaining weapons beyond use, after decades of violent struggle.
Archbishop Robin Eames, primate of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland who was also involved in the peace process, called the event a “massive step” and said that it “can become a major step towards a peaceful and just society if it heralds the end of all criminality and violence in the future.”
But Rev. Ian Paisley, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and leader of the largest political party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists, which has the strongest backing of Protestants from the region, has rejected the declaration.
The decommissioning “illustrates more than ever the duplicity and dishonesty of the two [British and Irish] governments and the IRA,” said Mr. Paisley. Of the clerics who witnessed the decommissioning he said they “were approved by the IRA and therefore were accepted by the IRA and in no way could be independent.”
The largely Roman Catholic IRA waged a violent campaign between 1969 and 1997 to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Last July the IRA ordered its members “to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means.”
Rev. Harry Uprichard, moderator of Northern Ireland’s largest denomination, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said: “The final act of decommissioning by the IRA is welcome and I acknowledge it as most helpful in the present situation.”
The decommissioning process was agreed as part of the Belfast Agreement, the accord – brokered between the British and Irish governments and most of Northern Ireland’s political parties signed on Good Friday 1998.