Speculation continues

The speculation continues about when statements will start being issued – since most report that the decommissioning process itself is over. Athough in this BBC report, Peter Hain is still using the future tense, UTV report that the decommissioning has been witnessed by “a catholic priest from West Belfast and a high profile methodist minister”.. and that the statements will start tomorrow. There are sceptical voices, Brendan O’Connor in the Sunday Independent – “Trust us, this time it’s gonna be big, baby” – while the Sunday Business Post remains cautiously optimistic – “it appears that confirmation of a major act of decommissioning is imminent, signalling the historic retirement of a significant physical force element to Irish nationalism.” Somewhere between the two are Greg Harkin in The Independent and Henry McDonald in the Observer.

From Henry McDonald’s report

Republican and government sources said the formal announcement that a vast arsenal of tonnes of illegal rifles, rockets, anti-aircraft guns and Semtex explosive had been put beyond use will be made possibly in the next 48 hours and definitely before Tony Blair’s keynote speech to the Labour party conference this week.

However, there will be no photographic evidence of the disarmament, which was witnessed by two churchmen from Northern Ireland, one a Catholic priest, the other a Presbyterian minister.

John de Chastelain, the Canadian general who has the task of overseeing paramilitary disarmament, will deliver an inventory of the weapons destroyed at a press conference early this week.

The IRA will also hold on to a number of personal protection weapons for its so-called ‘internal security teams’, many of these guns coming from a batch of weapons smuggled from Florida in 1999.

Whether UTV is correct about a statement from de Chastelain tomorrow isn’t clear, but the choreography is likely to revolve around the resumption of the Dáil.. and Blair’s keynote speech on Tuesday to the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

..and RTE report that transparency remains an issue for the DUP

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