Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Super Secret Decommissioning of IRA Weapons

On a Monday May 10, 2010 our Volunteer In Missions group met at 3 pm with Reverend Harold Good who is a Winner of the World Methodist Peace Prize and was involved in decommissioning of IRA weapons. This is the eighth in a series relating his talk. In the prior blog posting, Reverend Good disclosed he and Father Alec Reid, a Roman Catholic Priest, were the two witnesses invited to the decommissioning of weapons. Next, he related to us :

For Reverend Good, it was an amazing experience, to be there, to share in that journey with the leadership of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA, and to witness and to physically take part in the decommissioning of the weapons of the IRA.

Remember that in Republicanism, in the constitution of the Irish Republican Army, there are two things which are punishable by death:

1. One of them is a member to betray a colleague or comrade. Many people have died in this conflict because they were agents or double agents.

2. Another is for a member to surrender his weapon.

A formula had to be found that was agreed to by the British government, the Irish government, and by the IRA for the decommissioning of the IRA weapons that was not surrender yet was clearly an end to access to the weapons. So the definition of decommissioning is the putting of all weapons and munitions beyond reach and beyond use. For the IRA to engage in that in a way that was seen as not to be surrender, was really quite remarkable. The whole process was designed to remove any possible stigma of surrender. It was a very important step in the peace process.

Reverend Good couldn't tell the group, or anyone for that matter, a lot of details. He remembers the very first night. They didn't know where they were during the week long exercise. He's actually glad he and Father Reid didn't know where they were because he wouldn't want someone to be able to force that out of either of them. He remembers the first night he brought his devotions. He said, “What was the reading the very first night? It was of the whole armor of God”

{Ephesians 6:11 - Put on God's whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.12For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.13Therefore put on God's complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Source: Amplified Bible}

He was struck by how when they were setting off to accomplish the decommissioning of these physical weapons, he thought they really must equip themselves with the whole armor of God. That to him was an extraordinary coincidence, although he doesn't use the word coincidence any longer. It was an extraordinary happening.

He remembered before he set off, he went into a religious bookshop. He was browsing around and there he saw a rack in which there were a whole lot of prayer cards with the prayer of Saint Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. He bought a bundle of them and put them in his pocket to bring on their journey.

And when we came to the very end of the decommissioning, he could remember the last moment when General de Chastelain thought they'd dealt with the last weapon.

Way out from the corner came a man with a gun over his shoulder. They'd seen him all week and who he was protecting them from, they never knew. What he could have done with his one weapon had anybody come with ill intent, he didn't know, but symbolically he was kind of standing guard over them. He was clearly a member of the IRA.

Nobody knew what was happening. The security forces did not know. The politicians did not know. The media did not know. They'd have found them if they'd known. They would have rented every helicopter in the country. Nobody knew where they were or that this was happening. The only person close to Reverend Good who would know anything was his wife, because they were on a tour of China leading a group of 40 people when the summons came. He had to leave the tour half way through China, and come home to Ireland. Everyone except the tour thought Reverend Good was in China that week, but actually he was in Ireland, witnessing the decommissioning of the IRA weapons.

But the lone guard with the gun walked over and when he handed it over, Reverend Good could still recall the look on the General's face, because the General had forgotten about this weapon. The lone guard handed the General himself the gun. He didn't salute. But he took it off his shoulder, and handed it over with military formality.

Reverend Good remembered Father Reid turned to him and said, “There goes the last gun out from Irish politics.”

This talk continues at the blog posting entitled: Prayer at IRA Weapon Decommissioning.

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