The Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland is protected by the Agreement. One of the principles to which both Sinn Fein and the Progressive Unionist Party agreed in 1997 was that they gave their "total and absolute commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations." It is important for a U.S. audience to understand that those of us in Ireland who are concerned to maintain certain basic norms of representative democracy have good reasons to insist on the principle of the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, regardless of who the weapons are held by, or for what motive. But if one of the parties in a coalition has an association with a paramilitary organization that is refusing in principle to disarm itself that party is likely to rely in its coalition negotiations on something more than just the weight of votes that it has in the Dail. A party associated with a paramilitary organization has, at all times, an extra lever in negotiations because a paramilitary organization is an organization that has held onto the means to use violence to achieve its ends.
Why Decommissioning is a Real Issue,
22 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1200
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol22/iss4/6