Northern Ireland news

Decommissioning special: Workers Party member says 1972 Official IRA ceasefire was 'brave step'

STRATEGY: Exclusive pictures of decommissioning by the Official IRA were revealed in The Irish News on Tuesday. Right, Workers Party member Christopher Bailie

A member of the Workers Party has said its origins from the aftermath of the Official IRA ceasefire is an important chapter in the history of Irish politics.

Christopher Bailie described the ceasefire declared in 1972 as a "brave step" in the transition from "militarism to radical socialist politics".

He was speaking after The Irish News revealed an exclusive insight into the decommissioning process carried out by the Official IRA in 2010.

Details around the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons were previously shrouded in secrecy.

While the Provisional IRA confirmed its had put its arsenal beyond use in September 2005, little about the actual process were made public.

The main loyalist groups disarmed in 2009, with different factions of the UDA negotiating separate arrangements with General John de Chastelain's Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

The Official IRA and the INLA then both announced that they had decommissioned weapons in February 2010, just days before legislation providing for an amnesty expired on both sides of the border.

Details of that process and pictures of some of the guns were revealed for the first time on Tuesday, with a senior source linked to the Official IRA saying: "Our members were all older and in a politically reflective mood and so it seemed the right thing to do."

With the IRA's split into Official and Provisional wings in 1969, the Sinn Féin political party divided along similar lines.

The leaders of the official movement at the time were Cathal Goulding and Tomás Mac Giolla, with the Official IRA declaring a ceasefire in May 1972.

Official Sinn Féin was later renamed Sinn Féin The Workers Party and finally became the Workers' Party of Ireland in 1982.

Mr Bailie said the 1972 ceasefire "was a brave step that helped reduce tensions in a society that was rapidly regressing into all-out sectarian civil war".

"It allowed the party to concentrate on its anti-sectarian socialist message which attracted many people to the party."

Despite not making an electoral impact, the 26-year-old claimed the Workers Party has attracted younger membership in recent years because of the socialist ethos of people like Goulding.

 

"The impact the strategy of the then republican movement towards an anti-sectarian revolutionary party, in the form of the Workers Party, is clear when you look at the attempts Sinn Féin has made recently to whitewash their own sectarian campaign by attempting to erase the role of the the likes of Cathal Goulding in the civil rights movement and attempt to misappropriate that movement for themselves.

"If only they had taken steps to imitate certain elements of the Officials many years ago, many people's lives may not have been lost needlessly."

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