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Letters: Peace in Ireland

Sir: Full-scale arms decommissioning in Northern Ireland is unrealisable. It would be utter folly, and recklessly destabilising, for republicans, loyalists, or state security forces to undertake strategic disarmament at this stage.

However, what is most certainly realistic is the notion of putting some weapons beyond use. There is no credible basis for any argument against passing control of some weaponry to the international decommissioning body. Removing a few pounds of Semtex from a hoard of several thousand pounds doesn't alter strategic military capability. Nor does it destabilise the equilibrium between various armed groups. Also, weapons cached two hundred miles south in Tipperary are completely redundant when defending Belfast ghettos.

Neither republicans nor loyalists should dismiss the importance of participating in a voluntary act of reconciliation. Republicans in particular have most to lose by walking away. Quite simply, the world in general, and the North American Irish diaspora in particular, will just not comprehend how republicans could even contemplate ignoring the expressed wishes of the Irish people.

It is not correct to describe an act of reconciliation as surrender. On the contrary, to freely proffer a token in the form of weapons is a sign of confidence and empowerment. It will be the most important gesture ever made in modern Irish politics, the defining moment which transforms the whole peace process from one formed between enemies to one sustained between nascent friends.