IRA meets disarmament chief

The Irish Republican Army has met the head of an independent disarmament body, despite fading hopes of a deal to restore Catholic-Protestant power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

    Unionists have blocked a return to power sharing

    In a brief one-line statement on Tuesday, the IRA said that talks had been taking place between Canadian General John de Chastelain and the IRA's representative on future plans for more disarmament.
    Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, backed the British-Irish plan on Monday to restore semi-autonomous government to Northern Ireland, two years after its suspension.
    But Ian Paisley, the leader of the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has insisted that the IRA prove its disarmament with photographs before he agrees to any deal. 
    Sinn Fein said such a demand would be humiliating for the IRA, particularly after years of inter-community bloodshed between Northern Ireland's Protestants, who want to remain part of Britain, and Catholics, who favour a united Ireland.

    Political impasse

    The violent nationalist struggle largely ended with the 1998 Good Friday agreement that offered an opportunity for both sides of the community to take part in governing the region.
    But the power-sharing government at Stormont, set up under the treaty, was suspended in October 2002 amid a breakdown in mutual confidence because of allegations of espionage by the IRA.
    A year ago, the DUP and Sinn Fein won elections in Northern Ireland, sweeping aside more moderate parties, but neither has been able to exercise any power.



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