The ballot is finally to lay the bullet to rest in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, will travel to Belfast this week to formalise a historic agreement between Ian Paisley's hardline Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, political wing of the Irish Republican Party.Not before time. Call me a cynic, but I'd feel better of the story read "have been destroyed" rather than "will be decomissioned". Still, it's the best news for ages from Ulster. One thing 9/11 did - it removed the American financial backing for the Provos. But at a terrible cost, equal to or exceeding the number of people killed by the IRA, the Provisional IRA, the INLA, the "Real IRA", etc etc and their relatively fewer but equally thuggish Unionist counterparts.
Under the deal, all IRA weapons would be put out of use in two large-scale acts of decommissioning by the new year, and the two parties would share power before the end of March.
If the final draft is accepted, the Provisional IRA, which killed more than 1700 people in its guerilla campaign, would become, in the words of Mr Paisley, "an old boys' club".
The IRA arsenal was partly donated by Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in three clandestine shipments totalling 100 tonnes that were delivered to Ireland in the 1980s and has been added to with weapons smuggled from the US.
The total is estimated at 588 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 400 other rifles, including Armalites, and one or two Barret Light .50 long-range sniping weapons, 12 general purpose machine guns and 17 DShK heavy-duty machine guns capable of bringing down helicopters, eight rocket-launchers, six surface-to-air missiles, 100 pistols, 60 revolvers, two or three flame-throwers and an unknown quantity - perhaps a tonne - of Semtex explosives.
Monday, 6 December 2004
From The Australian :