INLA confirms decommissioning

 

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) has today confirmed it has decommissioned its weapons.

The INLA confirmed it has disposed of its illegal arsenal in recent weeks through the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. The announcement comes just a day before a deadline for paramilitary decommissioning set by Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward.

A spokesman for the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSP), the political wing of the INLA, said in Bray, Co Wicklow last October that the group was ending its armed struggle. While there was no commitment to decommissioning at the time, it had been expected before tomorrow's deadline.

IRSP spokesman Martin McMonagle told a Belfast press conference this morning the group had disarmed. “We make no apology for our part in the conflict,”

Mr McMonagle said. “We believe that conditions have now changed in such a way that other options are open to revolutionaries in order to pursue and ultimately achieve our objectives.”

He said the INLA had been on ceasefire for 12 years and had now handed over all its weapons to work on encouraging political progress.

“We can also confirm that the INLA has disarmed through a joint facilitation group consisting of local, a national and an international organisation. This was done in a process in accordance with international standards,” he said. “We hope that this will further enhance the primacy of politics ... and that it will in time unite and advance the working class struggle in Ireland.”

The consultation group included Irish trade union leaders and an academic, who worked with the IICD. The trade unionists today confirmed they had witnessed the destruction of a substantial amount of weaponry.

The INLA is believed to have been responsible for 111 murders from its formation in 1975 to its “complete ceasefire” in 1998 shortly after the Real IRA Omagh bombing, although it was involved in a number of killings since then. In June 2008, the INLA was blamed for the murder in Derry of pizza delivery man Emmet Shiels, shot dead when he intervened on behalf of another man who was being threatened by a suspected INLA gang.

Its worst atrocity was the Droppin’ Well pub bombing in Ballykelly, Co Derry in 1982 which killed 11 British soldiers and six civilians. Among its most high-profile murders was the killing in 1979 of Conservative MP Airey Neave, a friend of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

A second IRSP spokesman, Willie Gallagher, said the INLA would not apologise for the car bombing that killed Neave as he left the House of Commons.

“Airey Neave was a casualty of war. We have no regrets whatever about that particular action,” he said.

Asked if today’s announcement offered a chance to apologise for such attacks, he said: “The INLA statement clearly outlined that the INLA had no regrets for its involvement in conflict.

“We viewed Airey Neave as an enemy combatant and a casualty of war. Of course, we do sympathise with his family, like all families that have been bereaved on both sides,” Mr Gallagher said. “We do regret all deaths, but we believe that deaths such as Airey Neave were necessary in the conflict and our prosecution of the war.”

Tomorrow’s deadline means that legislation allowing paramilitaries to move weapons without fear of prosecution if it is for the purpose of decommissioning will end. Weapons recovered after tomorrow will be subjected to ballistic and forensic tests and people found with them or hiding or transporting them or linked to their use could face lengthy jail sentences.

The organisation is now said by security sources and the Independent Monitoring Commission to be heavily involved in drugs dealing and other forms of criminality.

Over the years it has been involved in some bloody internal feuds and in feuds with other republican groups. Some of its most notorious members included Dominic McGlinchey and Dessie O’Hare.

Three INLA members: Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine - along with seven Provisional IRA members - died during the 1981 hunger strikes.