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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IRA Ditches More Arms As Britain Sets Elections

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Britain set an election date in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican Army swiftly responded Tuesday by confirming it had disposed of more weapons.

In a day of carefully choreographed announcements, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said the long-delayed elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly would be held Nov. 26. That could pave the way for restoration of a Catholic-Protestant administration for the British province.

An IRA statement that followed five hours later confirmed that the outlawed group had agreed with John de Chastelain, the retired Canadian general overseeing disarmament in Northern Ireland, to decommission more weaponry. A second IRA statement later confirmed that the action had happened.

However, in keeping with previous IRA disarmament moves in October 2001 and April 2002, the IRA offered no detail on the volume of weaponry discarded or on its method of disposal. Protestant leaders complained that such secrecy would undermine Protestant support for reviving power-sharing.

As part of a push to revive power-sharing, the central goal of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998, Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern arrived in Northern Ireland to announce more details of their plans.

The IRA's two statements -- which came a decade after the British and Irish governments launched efforts to coax the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party into normal political life -- did not offer some of the specific promises sought by other parties to the 1998 deal.

In particular the Ulster Unionists, the major Protestant party that agreed in 1999 to form an administration that included Sinn Fein, has insisted that the IRA must stop recruiting and training, gathering intelligence on potential targets and beating up criminal opponents within its hard-line Catholic power bases. Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble planned to make a formal response to Tuesday's statements from the IRA and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who reaffirmed his party's support for the complex 1998 pact.

The IRA was supposed to have scrapped all of its hidden weapons by mid-2000 under terms of the 1998 deal. It began the process in October 2001 but stopped in April 2002 with an estimated 100 tons of weaponry still outstanding.