Arms handover vital for Ulster deal, says Sinn Fein

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The Independent Online

Sinn Fein today declared that paramilitary disarmament was a vital element of lasting political settlement for Northern Ireland and committed itself to doing everything it could to make it happen.

Sinn Fein today declared that paramilitary disarmament was a vital element of lasting political settlement for Northern Ireland and committed itself to doing everything it could to make it happen.

Party president Gerry Adams said he was confident that the IRA was committed to "permanent peace" and he condemned all violence for any political purpose, including punishment attacks.

"Sinn Fein accepts that decommissioning is an essential part of the peace process," he said.

"All parties have an obligation to help bring decommissioning about. Sinn Fein is committed to discharging our responsibilities in this regard."

Mr Adams' keynote statement came as Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the appointment of an IRA go-between to the independent arms body would pave the way for decommissioning.

Mr Trimble said: "If, in our view, a genuine and meaningful response is forthcoming to Monday's statement from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, the way will then be clear for the establishment of the political institutions.

"It is our belief that the establishment of the new political institutions and the disarmament of all paramilitary organisations will herald a new beginning for all sections of our people.

"We now have a chance to create a genuine partnership between unionists and nationalists in a novel form of government. The UUP is committed to the principles of inclusivity, equality, and mutual respect."

In an echo of Mr Trimble's speech, the Sinn Fein leader affirmed his party's support for the Good Friday Agreement, acknowledged all sides had suffered in the conflict and said republicans were willing to work with unionists in the new Northern Ireland.

Hopes are high that a series of statements and moves from all sides will bring about a power-sharing Stormont government and the handover of terrorist arms in the coming weeks.

Mr Adams said decommissioning must to be voluntary in the context of the overall peace accord, but he believed it would be "finally and satisfactorily" settled by the independent arms body.

He insisted his party had a "total and absolute commitment" to "exclusively peaceful and democratic means".

"For this reason we are totally opposed to any use of force or threat of force by others for any political purpose," he said. "We are totally opposed to punishment attacks."

He said there was "no doubt" the Province was entering the final stages of ending years of violence for good.

"IRA guns are silent and the Sinn Fein leadership is confident that the IRA remains committed to the objective of a permanent peace.

"By providing an effective political alternative we can remove the potential for conflict. That conflict must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone.

"All sections of our people have suffered profoundly in this conflict. Sinn Fein wishes to work with, not against, the unionists and recognises this as yet another imperative."

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