LETTERS: Symbolism in decommissioning of IRA arms

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The Independent Online
From Mr Eoin O'Neachtain

Sir: Your leading article ("Justice from a barrel of a gun", 29 December) is fundamentally flawed, both in its analysis and in its prescription.

Since August 1994 we have not had a cessation of political violence by Sinn Fein/IRA. Instead, we have had a cessation of military operations. Punishment beatings have continued on an even more intense level, as documented by Families Against Intimidation and Terror, and now we have a dramatic increase in political murders.

For a settlement in Northern Ireland to be truly inclusive, all sides must show their commitment to democratic politics and the rule of law. Sinn Fein/IRA has yet to do this, as do the loyalist paramilitaries.

In this context, the British government's insistence that some decommissioning of weapons by paramilitaries take place seems a minimum requirement for all-party talks. This condition is justified on practical grounds and is in accordance with liberal democratic principles. Opinion in the Republic of Ireland overwhelmingly supports this position (76 per cent of those questioned in a recent poll).

Pressure must now be put on Sinn Fein to condemn unequivocally the murders of recent days and the continuing punishment beatings and demonstrate their adherence to due process. If they do not do this, the genuineness of their commitment to the search for peace in Northern Ireland will have to be seriously re-examined.

Yours etc,

Eoin O'Neachtain

London, W12

29 December