INLA confirms decommissioning move
A republican paramilitary group which killed more than 100 people during the Troubles in the North announced today that it has decommissioned its weapons.
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) confirmed it has disposed of its illegal arsenal in recent weeks through the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).
The splinter group was responsible for some of the most infamous attacks of the Troubles, including the killing of Conservative MP Airey Neave in 1979.
Four months ago the INLA used a graveside oration outside Dublin to confirm its "armed struggle is over" and it vowed to end its 35-year campaign of violence in the North.
A spokesman for the group, Martin McMonagle, told a Belfast press conference the INLA had disarmed.
"We make no apology for our part in the conflict," he said.
But he added: "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."
A prominent member of the INLA's political wing, and a former INLA prisoner, he said his group would now work to encourage political progress.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) executive member said the INLA had been on ceasefire for 12 years and added it had now handed over all its weapons.
"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.
A second IRSP spokesman, Willie Gallagher, said the INLA would not apologise for one of its most infamous attacks, the under-car bombing that killed Mr Neave as he left the House of Commons in 1979.
The republican, who is also a former INLA prisoner, said: "Airey Neave was a casualty of war. We have no regrets whatever about that particular action."
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.
"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."
But trade unionists involved in the decommissioning process said the community was safer as a result of the decision and characterised it as good news for the peace process.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly welcomed the reports that the INLA has put its weapons beyond use.
He said: "The peace process has ensured that a peaceful and democratic path to a united Ireland exists. There is no support for or appetite for armed actions within the republican community.
"The INLA has recognised this by engaging with the IICD in this action.
"Other small militarist factions, both republican and loyalist, who are opposed to the peace process need now also to reflect on their position given the political realities of 2010 and end their futile armed actions."
Meanwhile, the loyalist Ulster Political Research Group, linked to the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) which recently decommissioned its weapons, also welcomed the INLA announcement.
"We are sure we can speak for the widest spectrum of opinion in the loyalist community when we congratulate those who have shown great leadership within the socialist community and who have had the vision and taken great risks to create a new environment for the future where violence is no longer a viable option and where weapons are a thing of the past," it said.