De Chastelain says IRA has disposed of 'all arms'
The Provisional IRA has disposed of all of its arms, the head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) said today.. . . we are satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's arsenal
Gen de Chastelain
Speaking at a press conference near Belfast, General John de Chastelain said it was an "important milestone" for Northern Ireland and said he hoped the move would prompt other groups to make a similar move.
The IRA issued a short statement after the press conference that read: "The leadership of Oglaigh na h-Eireann announced on July 28 that we had authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put arms beyond use.
Signed by "P O'Neill", the statement added: "The IRA leadership can now confirm that the process of putting our arms verifiably beyond use has been completed."
In what is seen as an historical announcement just after 2pm, Gen de Chastelain said: "Over the past number of weeks the members of the commission have engaged with the IRA representative in the execution of our mandate to decommission arms.
"We have now reported to British and Irish governments that we have observed and verified events to put beyond use very large quantities of arms which we believe include all the arms in the IRA's possession. We have also made an inventory of them.
"In September 2004 the commission was provided with estimates of the number and quantity of arms held by the IRA. These estimates were produced by the security forces in both jurisdictions and were in agreement. Our new inventory is consistent with these estimates and we are satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's arsenal."
Gen de Chastelain said the weapons decommissioned included flame throwers, surface-to-air missiles, AK47s and a number of improvised devices.
He said he did not see any weapons manufactured post-1996, the year the IRA renewed its ceasefire.
The general said: "We asked them 'Is this everything?'. They said 'Yes, this is everything'."
Gen de Chastelain said decommissioning by other paramilitary groups "remains vital".
"We hope that after today's announcement those responsible for taking them may be encouraged to do so," he added.
Gen de Chastelain had earlier delivered a report to the Irish and British governments earlier that confirmed the IRA had fully and verifiably decommissioned its arsenal of weapons.
The disarmament was verified by former Methodist president the Rev Harold Good and Redemptorist priest Fr Alex Reid, who acted as a go-between in the lead-up to the 1994 IRA ceasefire.
Rev Good told the press conference that 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".
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."
The Reverend said he was utterly certain about the accuracy of General de Chastelain's report.
The Provisional IRA, on July 28th, ordered its members to lay down their weapons.
Gen de Chastelain was joined by his colleagues Andrew Sens and Brig Tauno Nieminen, in the Culloden Hotel just outside Belfast to publicly announce that the IRA has disarmed.