Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As N. Ireland Gets a Government, the IRA Is Pressured to Disarm A Protestant Group Turned in Some Arms on Friday, but the IRA Stillsays 'No.'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As N. Ireland Gets a Government, the IRA Is Pressured to Disarm A Protestant Group Turned in Some Arms on Friday, but the IRA Stillsays 'No.'

Article excerpt

Northern Ireland will enter 1999 with only one major obstacle lying across the path to a stable peace: refusal so far by the Irish Republican Army and its political wing, Sinn Fein, to agree to the handover of IRA guns and explosives. Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, head of the arms decommissioning body under last April's peace agreement, says he is "guardedly hopeful" that progress on "this key issue" would soon be made. "Over the months we have had a number of useful, constructive contacts with a number of the parties, including Sinn Fein," General de Chastelain says. He notes with approval that Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief strategist, was the go-between for the IRA's contacts with the decommissioning body. At the weekend de Chastelain greeted as "modest but significant" the decision of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) - a small Protestant paramilitary group - to hand in some of its weapons and explosives. Television pictures showing LVF guns being cut up and destroyed cranked up the pressure on the IRA to follow suit and added to pressure coming from another direction. Last week, after long and bitter negotiations, David Trimble, the Protestant politician selected to lead Northern Ireland's future government, and his appointed deputy, Seamus Mallon of the main Catholic-supported Social Democratic and Labor Party, agreed on the shape of a future Northern Ireland executive body, due to open for business by the end of February. They also agreed to the creation of six cross-border committees to coordinate contacts between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which Catholics hope will lead to eventual reunification. Sinn Fein will be able to claim two of the 10 ministerial seats in the ruling body - but only if the IRA first begins to decommission its arms. "Now it is up to {Sinn Fein leader Gerry} Adams to persuade the IRA to act. …

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