Blair on decommissioning of the IRA
Press briefing from the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman on Decommissioning.
Asked what was happening "over the water" this afternoon regarding decommissioning, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had to wait for General John de Chastelain's report this afternoon. The PMOS said that if this turned out to be complete decommissioning, it could only be seen as a truly significant event. Following the events of last year, people would of course be sceptical, but what we were seeing was a process of implementing the IRA's statement of July, and this was the first of three stages. The PMOS said that there would be two other reports by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), the first being in October that we hoped would show that the IRA had stopped all paramilitary activity, including criminal activity, with a further report in January 2006.
Asked what other work there would be for John de Chastelain, the PMOS said unfortunately, there was still the issue of loyalist paramilitaries to consider. However, if today did see the complete decommissioning as set out by General John de Chastelain's report, it would be truly significant.
Asked what would happen if decommissioning did take place, the PMOS replied that confidence would be restored, and we accepted that people were right to have had concerns and to be sceptical. If we saw arms completely put beyond use, and the Independent Monitoring Commission confirmed that all paramilitary and criminal activity had stopped, then we believed that it was possible to begin moving forward on devolution. We were not trying to do a complete deal this week, rather we were trying to demonstrate that the IRA had lived up to their word.
Asked what the consequences would be to loyalist paramilitaries, the Secretary of State had said last week that the paramilitaries had a choice: they could either go down a political route, or they could try to continue with their paramilitary activity. If they did the latter, then they would be treated as criminals, who the police would deal with accordingly.