What, several readers ask, do I think of the news that the so-called Irish Republican Army is going to start destroying its stockpiles of weapons and explosives at last, as it agreed to in the Good Friday Agreement of seven years ago?
Given the historical record, the only appropriate response to any IRA pronouncement that it is going to actually honor agreements it has entered into must be one of fathomless cynicism. I think what needs to be said about this particular declaration was said very well by the editorialists at the Daily Telegraph:
“The people that Sinn Fein/IRA needs to convince about their intentions are not Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, sympathetic American congressmen or the commentators who have hailed so many false dawns before. It is the Unionist community of Northern Ireland that needs to be won over if the power-sharing executive is to be re-established with any realistic prospect of continued success.
“To that end, the IRA needs to demonstrate that the process is irreversible by disbanding. Why, after all, does a democratic political party need an army? Furthermore, it needs to give its full support to the police – reformed at its behest, after all – and the criminal justice system, something that was woefully absent when Robert McCartney was brutally murdered earlier this year and the IRA offered to shoot the alleged culprit.
Unionists are right to reserve judgment on yesterday’s events until the hype has been translated into action.”