Security sources have indicated that, if agreement is reached and the Provisional IRA agrees to decommission its arsenal, the process would begin with the destruction of explosives. However, the decommissioning of the organisation's huge store of weapons could be more difficult.
It is believed that some of the organisation's store of Semtex explosives would be destroyed in an opening gesture towards the end of January. The IRA are believed to have a stockpile of between two or three of Semtex, and it is unlikely that either the gardai or the RUC would be permitted to witness its destruction. Instead, they would probably learn about as an announcement from General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.
The Provisionals are still in possession of a large arsenal. It is estimated to include about 700 Kalashnikov assault rifles, a substantial number of other rifles, handguns, general purpose machine guns, heavy machine guns. Heavier weaponary at the Provisional's disposal includes surface-to-air missile launchers, rocket launchers, anti-tank bazookas, flame throwers and handgrenades. Plans to destroy these weapons may be complicated by the fact that garda searches have shown that some of them have been stored in dry-stone walls in remote farms, making them difficult to locate and unearth.
The man who knows most about the locations of these weapon caches is the IRA's former Quartermaster-General, who is now believed to be Chief of Staff of the group of dissidents formed around the so-called Real IRA. But the indications are that the dissidents have been trying to acquire their own weapons, rather than running the risk of taking any from Provo arms dumps.