Wednesday, February 1

Northern Ireland watchdog says IRA sticks to disarmament pledge

By Paul Hoskins and Adam Pasick | February 1, 2006

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's ceasefire watchdog said on Wednesday the Irish Republican Army was keeping to a disarmament pledge it made last July but was still involved in spying and organized crime.

The British government hailed a "sea change" by the guerrilla group, but a chilly reaction from Northern Ireland's biggest unionist party underlined the difficulty of breaking a political stalemate in the province.

Dublin and London had hoped that the watchdog's findings would help build trust between opposing parties and kick-start talks on reviving a mothballed provincial government in which pro-Irish and pro-British opponents once shared power.

"Like an oil tanker, the (IRA) will take a while to turn completely, and there is likely to be added turbulence in the wash as it does so," the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) said in a report.

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