IRISH Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said that republicans did not completely rule out the issue of photographic evidence of IRA disarmament in the recent negotiations. From Ahern’s statement, it might be supposed that the primary problem for the IRA was not the fact that photos of weapons would be taken, but the context in which they would be published.
Ahern said: “The refusal of photographs wasn`t as explicit as is being indicated, in my view.
“It was always part of the discussions that photographs may be necessary in order to convince the DUP to bring them over the line.
“Always we knew the issue of photographs in themselves might not be the difficulty but the publication of the photographs in such a way as would be seen as being a humiliation or a victory for one side would not be countenanced.”
This seems a little at odds with what the IRA stated: “For his part, Ian Paisley demanded that our contribution be photographed, and reduced to an act of humiliation. This was never possible.”
Unless the IRA is saying that what was “never possible” was the reduction of the photos to “an act of humiliation” – rather than the actual taking of photos – then there is a contradiction between Ahern and the IRA’s interpretation of their arms negotiations.
This wouldn’t be the first time a comma led to confusion, of course.
The Irish have already backed the DUP’s demand for photos to be taken, and now seem to be embarking on a drive to convince the IRA that this does not equate to humiliation and is in line with the Mitchell principles.
The Taoiseach could have a potential role here as a guarantor that publication of the photos would be presented in circumstances that would not be interpreted as surrender, but instead being seen as moving the process forward.
If the IRA’s problem is with the context of publication of photographs rather than the taking of photos, then this is a solvable issue.
The DUP also seemed fairly flexible on how a ‘visual aspect’ of decommissioning could happen around the time of the Leeds Castle talks. They might still be, but attitudes can harden during periods of limbo. Nevertheless, there was no mention of photographs in Paisley’s reaction to the IRA statement, so perhaps another method of verification might be found.