Northern Ireland news

IRA arms decommissioning witness says listen to 'weary' community and restore power-sharing

Rev Harold Good was an independent witness as the IRA destroyed its guns in 2005
Michael McHugh

A METHODIST church leader who helped oversee the Northern Ireland peace process has said political powersharing should be restored to "disarm" the dissident republican threat.

The Rev Harold Good was an independent witness as the IRA destroyed its guns in 2005. It was a crucial milestone on a road which ended decades of conflict and enabled inclusive government at Stormont.

He said the community was "weary" of the consequences of the political uncertainty after devolved government collapsed early this year and appealed to politicians to listen to the frustrated and angry voices of a community pressing for politicians to return to power.

"Not only in the interests of economic stability, or to 'disarm' the arguments or activities of those who as yet pose a threat to our fragile peace .... but because what we ask of you is morally as well as politically the right thing to do."

The Rev Good joined forces with Catholic priest Fr Alec Reid, a long-time confidant of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams who arranged ground-breaking talks between Mr Adams and then SDLP leader John Hume, to witness paramilitary arms decommissioning.

Canadian General John de Chastelain led an international independent commission on decommissioning, which oversaw the destruction of weapons.

It was a pivotal moment in the peace process, coming after a 30-year conflict during which the IRA killed nearly 2,000 people, and was followed by Sinn Fein accepting policing, the rule of law and the restoration of devolution.

Since then, dissident renegades opposed to peace have targeted police, soldiers and prison officers.

The former Methodist president in Ireland added: "Within and between the churches of this land we are deeply conscious of the many ways in which we have failed to live up to what we have been called to preach.

"Slow learners though we may appear to have been, we are trying to catch up."

He joined a group of other civic figures appealing for progress in the talks between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists because it would help those with health problems and other challenges receive support from a locally elected administration.

"The list goes on, with extremely vulnerable young people struggling with suicidal thoughts, as well as the death of a friend or sibling.

"It is on their behalf, not our own, that we plead for a return to a compassionate, stable and effective Assembly and Executive."

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Northern Ireland news