Friday 18 October 2019

Bertie Ahern hails historic day as terror group ETA is disbanded

A man reads a basque nationalist newspaper reporting on the dissolution of ETA (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)
A man reads a basque nationalist newspaper reporting on the dissolution of ETA (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

TERROR group ETA has completely disbanded, ending a 60-year guerrilla campaign in the Basque Country.

The news has been described as historic by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who has been involved in the negotiations since 2009.

ETA spent more than five decades fighting for an independent state in northern Spain and southern France. Officials believe the group killed 853 people.

Former militants will keep seeking a “reunited, independent, socialist, Basque-speaking and non-patriarchal Basque Country” but they will do it outside of ETA.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mr Ahern, who is in Kambo Cambo les Bains in the Basque country today, told the move towards peace was largely modelled on Northern Ireland.

"We have been very much following the same steps as Ireland. There was a cease fire, decommissioning, an apology and today is the disbandment," he said.

Mr Ahern has been part of an International Contact Group which has been central to the negotiations, alongside others including Gerry Adams and Jonathan Powell.

Today's formal declaration from those involved in the talks states that this marks "the last armed confrontation in Europe".

It is nearly seven years since the Aiete Declaration laid the groundwork for the end of the conflict.

"At that time we called upon on all side to commit to peace and democratic means and to dialogue and negotiation to resolve differences so that a just and lasting peace could be achieved in this region," today's declaration states.

"This is a historical moment for the whole of Europe marking the end of the last armed group on the contitnent.

"In the nearly seven years since the Aiete Declaration there has been major advances in the call for peace in the Basque country. There are of course things that we called for at Aiete that have not been done."

Further dialogue between interested groups and the Spanish government is suggested, particularly around the issue of prisoners.

The declaration adds: "Most of all a process of reconciliation lies ahead. In our experience in the conflicts in which we are involved this takes a long time.

"Deep wounds remain. Families and communities are still divided. Further efforts need to be made to recognise and assist all victims.

"It will take honesty about the past from all sides and generosity of spirit to heal the wounds and rebuild a shared community."

Mr Ahern said the deal is not perfect but it is something to be celebrated.

"We could be talking about Northern Ireland. The only difference here is there are a lot of things still outstanding like prisoners," he said. 

"Today this will be seen as a big step. It's 60 years. ETA are wrapping up and that's been part of the process for the past seven or eight years."

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