Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Sinn Fein leaders leave IRA posts

DEMILITARIZATION The resignations of the party's top leaders, including Gerry Adams, aims to give Sinn Fein greater legitimacy by cutting all ties with the IRA

AFP , DUBLIN

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, center, gets caught between protesters and police in riot gear as they remove Nationalist protestors from the Crumlin Road in the Ardoyne district of North Belfast on July 12.

PHOTO: AP

Three senior Sinn Fein leaders, including party president Gerry Adams, have stepped down from their posts on the ruling body of the party's Irish Republican Army military wing according to the Irish Independent newspaper yesterday.

The newspaper said Adams, chief negotiator Martin McGuinness and convicted gun-runner Martin Ferris who is an lawmaker in the Irish Republic's parliament have all resigned from the seven-man army council of the Catholic IRA paramilitary group.

It says their posts have been filled by three men from Northern Ireland who are closely aligned to the Adams-McGuinness group pushing the movement onto a purely political path.

The newspaper says none of the new appointees is a member of Sinn Fein but all are regarded within the Provisional republican movement as militarists with proven records.

"The ground-breaking decision means that all links between the leadership of the political and military wings of the Provisional movement have been severed.

"The changes in personnel are also seen as part of the `sanitization' process within Sinn Fein as the party prepares to present itself as a democratic body that is ready to play a full part in political developments north and south of the border," the Independent says.

In an unprecedented charge in January, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell claimed the three Sinn Fein men were leaders of both the political and military wings of the republican movement.

However, in a joint statement the trio "categorically" denied they were members of the ruling body of the outlawed IRA and accused McDowell of abusing his office.

The Independent says that in the wake of the London bombings, and with an increasingly hostile climate towards terrorist violence, the Provisional movement is understood to have decided that this is the right time to move into a new mode.

Earlier this year, Adams has made a direct appeal to IRA "volunteers" to embrace purely political and democratic activity.

The Irish and British governments hope that before the holiday period next month there will be a response from the IRA , which declared a ceasefire in its campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland before a 1998 peace deal which largely ended 30 years of violence.

Protestant factions in Northern Ireland are adamant that there can be no political progress toward a lasting peace settlement without a move by the IRA to end all paramilitary and criminal activity and a decommissioning of weapons arsenals.

The 1998 Good Friday peace deal paved the way for a Protestant-Catholic power-sharing assembly, but that was suspended more than two years ago amid allegations of IRA espionage.

British and Irish efforts to revive power-sharing and secure a permanent settlement collapsed before Christmas after Sinn Fein rejected Protestant demands for photographic proof of IRA weapons destruction.

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