The Irish Republican Army has reopened negotiations with Northern Ireland’s disarmament chief, the outlawed group confirmed Tuesday in a brief statement, after signaling its readiness to put more weapons out of commission for the first time in over a year.
The move came with a major dispute over disarmament unresolved: Protestant leaders are demanding the IRA allow officials to photograph the removal of weapons.
Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, appeared to rule that out earlier Tuesday when he said the IRA was willing to resume disarming after a 13-month hiatus — but would not accept conditions designed to humiliate the group.
In its one-line statement, the IRA offered no hint as to whether it intends to disarm fully and disband in support of Northern Ireland’s 6-year-old peace accord, as the governments of Britain and Ireland expect.
“The IRA leadership confirms that our representative has been in contact with and has met” the independent disarmament chief, retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain.
The British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, plan to travel Wednesday to Belfast to unveil a joint peace package that has taken more than a year of negotiations to produce.
In past rounds of disarmament, the IRA has refused to let it be known how many weapons it had put “beyond use.”