Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Weapons Decommissioners

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Classified By: Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney. Reasons 1.4(b/d).

1. C) SUMMARY: The group charged with overseeing
the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in
Ireland told us that weapons decommissioning
has been accomplished to a great extent, but not
completely. Completing devolution of policing
and justice remains crucial to the peace process;
failure to do so could vindicate the violence of
dissident splinter groups in the eyes of many.
Continuing separation of the two communities in
Northern Ireland and lack of economic opportunity
also threatens further progress. The possibility
of traveling to the U.S. is a powerful "carrot"
with which the U.S. can influence activists'
behavior, according to our interlocutors. We will
continue to strengthen Irish resolve on urging the
Northern Ireland parties to agree on devolution.

2. (C) On January 13 Ambassador Rooney met with General
John de Chastelain, the Head of the Independent
International Commission on Decommissioning in Northern
Ireland, and co-Commissioners Andrew Sens, Brigadier Tauno
Nieminen and Aaro Suonio. (STRICTLY PROTECT ALL FOUR.) De
Chastelain said the Commission must start wrapping up its
work, as its annual mandate expires on February 9 and will
not be renewed. The major paramilitary groups in Northern
Ireland have all decommissioned their weapons, with the
most recent having been the loyalist Ulster Defense
Association (UDA), which decommissioned its weapons on
January 6. One splinter group within the UDA, the
Southeast Antrim Brigade, has not decommissioned its
weapons, however. DeChastelain said the Southeast Antrim
Brigade had indicated a desire to decommission, possibly
even before the Commission's mandate expires, but was being
held back by concerns regarding dissident elements within
the group.

3. (C) Sens said, while stressing the Commission's
independence and commitment to "stay out of politics," that
one concern of the loyalist groups is their desire to reap
the same benefits from the decommissioning process as
republican leaders have, including increased job
opportunities and training, and the ability to travel to
the U.S. He commented that when Sinn Fein leader Gerry
Adams received his first U.S. visa in 1994, it was a
powerful message to the leaders of paramilitary groups to
reform their behavior. Loyalist groups are now vocalizing
their desire to have this same benefit, although they
realize they might not be eligible due to previous criminal
and terrorism-related activities.

4. (C) The Commissioners' assessment of the current state
of play regarding the peace process was that great
progress had been made and a return to widespread violence
unlikely but not impossible. They said the most
constructive role the USG and the Irish government could
play would be to continue to make clear to the unionist
side that devolution of policing and justice remains a
necessary final step in the peace process. If that step is
not taken, they said, the mainstream republicans,
particularly Sinn Fein, stand to lose credibility with
their base, while the message of the republican dissidents,
who advocate a return to terrorist violence, would be
vindicated in the eyes of many frustrated grassroots
nationalists. At the same time, the Commissioners worried
that Ireland and the UK are already discussing a Plan B to
keep the peace process moving along if devolution fails.
Both governments need to maintain resolve on devolution,
they stressed.

5. (C) The Commissioners stressed that continuing
sectarianism and lack of economic opportunity remain two
factors that endanger continuing progress toward stability
in Northern Ireland. They described the continued
day-to-day separation between Catholics and Protestants,
especially noticeable in separate schools, separate
neighborhoods and separate sporting teams. Lack of jobs or
economic opportunity for young, uneducated and untrained
men on both sides of the divide are the biggest potential
threat to peace, all agreed. All who are interested in
consolidating the gains of recent years need to promote
economic opportunity, job training and integration of the
two communities, they said.

6. (C) COMMENT: The Commissioners' assessment of the
current state of play, namely that a return to violence is
unlikely but not impossible - and that completing
devolution of policing and justice is necessary in order to
avoid a complete impasse in the peace process - tracks with

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what our Irish contacts report. We will continue to
strengthen Irish resolve on devolution to avoid a premature
election of any Plan B. END COMMENT.

7. (C) NOTE: The Commissioners stressed the importance of
their independence and impartiality; please potect their
confidentiality. END NOTE.


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