IRA arms inspectors confirm faith in ceasefire

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The Independent Online

The international arms monitors who have carried out two inspections of IRA arms dumps, expressed a high degree of confidence yesterday in the intentions of the republican organisation.

The international arms monitors who have carried out two inspections of IRA arms dumps, expressed a high degree of confidence yesterday in the intentions of the republican organisation.

Cyril Ramaphosa, a former leader of the African National Congress, and the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari met political parties in Belfast, in an apparent effort to stress that their activities are meaningful. Ken Maginnis, the Ulster Unionist security spokesman, was guarded about the meeting but described it as "helpful" and "reassuring".

The monitors' comments will be welcome to the British and Irish governments and those others who have been attempting to convince a sceptical Unionist community that the IRA and Sinn Fein have been acting in good faith on the arms issue.

The intervention came at a difficult time, with nationalist and Unionist representatives currently in confrontational mode. Today in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, Sinn Fein and SDLP members of the Northern Ireland administration will meet a Dublin minister. The meeting will not have official status as a North-South encounter since David Trimble, the First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader, has refused to approve the attendance of a Sinn Fein minister. It will thus go ahead on an ad hoc basis, serving as a highly visible sign of the depth of differences and ill-feeling among the parties making up the administration.

The Ulster Unionist minister Sir Reg Empey shrugged off the event as "a meeting of nationalists" of no institutional significance. Ironically, he was speaking after launching a cross-border e-business guide in Belfast with the Irish Republic's public enterprise minister Mary O'Rourke.

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