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Long road from terror to politics

Published 28/07/2015

As 2004 ended no one could have imagined the IRA statement that would be delivered in July the following year.

A long political negotiation had ended badly.

The DUP demanded photographic proof of IRA decommissioning - and a thunderous speech by Ian Paisley included his demand that the IRA should wear sackcloth and ashes.

A series of events then raised many questions about the continuing existence of the IRA and its intentions.

December 2004: The Northern Bank robbery. Republicans denied IRA involvement, but police, governments and the Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC) all linked the IRA to the £26m raid.

January 2005: Then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde commenting on the bank robbery said: "In my opinion the Provisional IRA were responsible for this crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction."

January 2005: IRA members are linked to the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in a stabbing after a row in a pub.

February 2005: IMC report on Northern Bank robbery includes: "We have carefully scrutinised all the material of different kinds that has become available to us since the robbery, which leads us to conclude firmly that it was planned and undertaken by the Provisional IRA."

March 2005: In a leadership statement, the IRA said it was "prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney".

April 2005: A speech by the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams under the heading 'An Address to the IRA' asks: "Can you take courageous initiatives which will achieve your aims by purely political and democratic activity?" The speech sets the scene for the IRA statement of July 28, 2005.

July 2005: IRA statement includes: "The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon. All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms."

September 2005: IRA statement: "The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann announced on July 28 that we had authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put arms beyond use. The IRA leadership can now confirm that the process of putting our arms beyond use has been completed." The decommissioning was witnessed by two churchmen, Fr Alec Reid and Rev Harold Good.

January 2006: Intelligence reports suggest the IRA has retained part of its arsenal.

Former Methodist President Harold Good, who witnessed the arms being put beyond use, said what he saw was "visible proof" of the July statement.

"What was asked for was actions not words," Mr Good told the Belfast Telegraph.

"That was the significance of it [the decommissioning]. It was confirming the intention behind the statement."

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