Northern Ireland

Rev Harold Good says Eta disarmament 'hugely important'

French police open Eta weapons cache in Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle, near Bayonne, France (8 April) Image copyright EPA
Image caption French police have begun opening the weapons caches listed by Eta

A Northern Ireland minister who was one of those who witnessed the handover of an inventory of Eta's weapons has said it was a hugely important day.

At a ceremony in the southern French city of Bayonne, an inventory of the Basque group's weapons, and their locations, was passed to authorities.

Rev Harold Good was also an independent witness to IRA decommissioning.

"It's been a very significant day today, hugely significant," Rev Good said.

"To be here as a part of it has personally been very important for me, but much, much more - hugely important - for this country and hopefully the next step in their peace process."

Rev Good was one of two independent witnesses who oversaw the decommissioning of IRA arms, a vital part of the Northern Ireland peace process in 2005.

He said there were many parallels between the processes in Ireland and the Basque region.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Rev Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid were the two independent witnesses to IRA decommissioning

"The heart of it all has been the problem and the stumbling block over weapons," he said.

"For us in Northern Ireland the decommissioning process opened up new opportunities.

"I've been coming and going to the Basque country over a number of years now and we've been trying to encourage them towards this day.

"We've been able to tell them from our experience it opens up new opportunities and without the disarmament and decommissioning we'd lose those opportunities."

Eta killed more than 800 people in some 40 years of violence as it sought to carve out an independent country straddling Spain and France.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Eta's first known killing was in 1968

Its first known killing was in 1968, when a secret police chief was shot dead in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

It declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm.

The caches contain 120 firearms, three tonnes of explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition, according to a spokesman for the group which mediated between Eta and the French authorities.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan welcomed the disarmament move by Eta.

"Today's act of decommissioning by Eta marks a significant and welcome step in the disbanding of a terrorist organisation which inflicted great suffering on people in fellow EU member states and has no place in the European Union," he said.

"Democracy and dialogue are the only legitimate means of resolving political differences.

"While I welcome today's positive development, we must never forget the victims of terrorism; those who have died and those whose pain will continue beyond today's announcement."

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