IRA has decommissioned all weapons, says de Chastelain

In an historic announcement, General John de Chastelain said "very large quantities of arms, which we believe include all the arms in the IRA's possession", have been put beyond use.

Speaking at a news conference outside Belfast, the general said he and his fellow members on the commission had been provided with estimates in 2004 by the British and Irish security forces on what the IRA arsenal was believed to be.

An inventory of weapons decommissioned was "consistent with these estimates".

The general said: "We are satisfied the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's arsenal."

He said it included ammunition, rifles, machine guns, mortars, missiles, handguns, explosive substances and other arms, including all the categories described in the estimates by the security forces, he said.

He went on: "The Commission has determined the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use in a manner called for by legislation."

He said it remained for the Commission to address the issue of loyalist arms and he asked everyone with influence to use it to that end.

The Reverend Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist church in Ireland and one of two churchmen who witnessed the process said he was utterly certain about the accuracy of General de Chastelain's report.

He said: "We have spent many long days watching the meticulous and painstaking way in which General de Chastelain went about his task of decommissioning huge amounts of explosives, arms and ammunition."

He said witnessing the process on a minute-by-minute basis gave them clear and incontrovertible evidence "that beyond any shadow of doubt the arms of the IRA have now been decommissioned".

The general described IRA decommissioning as "an important milestone towards the completion of its task to achieve decommissioning by all paramilitary groups".

He said he still believed full decommissioning by all groups was possible. He said decommissioning of the weapons belonging to the IRA had to be achieved without the suggestion of surrender or defeat and those conditions remained.

He said much of his work and that of his two fellow commissioners had been carried out in secrecy and there were those who had questioned the secrecy.

He said he understood the desire of those who have been subjected to violence to see that the threat has gone, but that has not been simple.

The general and his colleagues are to retain the inventory of the weapons they have seen destroyed.

The general described IRA decommissioning as "an important milestone towards the completion of its task to achieve decommissioning by all paramilitary groups".

He said he still believed full decommissioning by all groups was possible. He said decommissioning of the weapons belonging to the IRA had to be achieved without the suggestion of surrender or defeat and those conditions remained.

He said much of his work and that of his two fellow commissioners had been carried out in secrecy and there were those who had questioned the secrecy.

He said he understood the desire of those who have been subjected to violence to see that the threat has gone, but that has not been simple.

The general and his colleagues are to retain the inventory of the weapons they have seen destroyed.

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