Sunday 26 February 2017

Mo Mowlam was right - in the round, it is better to talk than pick up bodies

Liz O'Donnell

Liz O'Donnell

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness

I was abroad when the furore started about the continuing existence of the IRA and its alleged involvement in the recent murders of Kevin McGuigan and Jock Davison.

So I watched from afar as the familiar players pitched in, some posturing, but most in earnest efforts to pick their way through the latest questions of credibility and Sinn Féin's fitness for office.

We have all been here before so many times that it can appear tedious to be overly precious about decoupling Sinn Féin from its murky paramilitary connections. The Republican movement's transition to democracy has not been a seamless join. Anyone involved in the 20-year peace process has regularly wrestled with these conflicting demons. In the pre-1998 talks it was all about what constituted a ceasefire. Did it have to be permanent? What constituted decommissioning? Verifiable public handing over of weapons or euphemisms such as putting arms beyond use? In the end, the really thorny issue of the destruction and monitoring of paramilitary weapons was handed over to independent bodies like the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and later the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). The latter was established by the two governments in 2004 and concluded in 2011, having issued 22 reports on paramilitary activity.

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