Bush, Blair And Ahern Welcome Ira Statement

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The IRA announced the end of the armed struggle against British imperialism in a statement issued on Thursday.

The statement said: ‘The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.

This will take effect from 4pm (1600 BST) this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD (Independent International Commission on Decommissioning) to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible.

We have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and Catholic churches, to testify to this.

The Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and Volunteers.

We appreciate the honest and forthright way in which the consultation process was carried out and the depth and content of the submissions.

We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted.

The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA Volunteers for the Sinn Fein peace strategy.

There is also widespread concern about the failure of the two governments and the unionists to fully engage in the peace process. This has created real difficulties.

The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland fully support this process.

They and friends of Irish unity throughout the world want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Notwithstanding these difficulties our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland.

We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country.

It is the responsibility of all Volunteers to show leadership, determination and courage.

We are very mindful of the sacrifices of our patriot dead, those who went to jail, Volunteers, their families and the wider republican base.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We reiterate our view that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate. We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict.

There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace.

The issue of the defence of nationalist and republican communities has been raised with us.

There is a responsibility on society to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of the pogroms of 1969 and the early 1970s.

There is also a universal responsibility to tackle sectarianism in all its forms.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We call for maximum unity and effort by Irish republicans everywhere. We are confident that by working together Irish republicans can achieve our objectives.

Every Volunteer is aware of the import of the decisions we have taken and all Oglaigh are compelled to fully comply with these orders.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity to utilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process.

This comprehensive series of unparalleled initiatives is our contribution to this and to the continued endeavours to bring about independence and unity for the people of Ireland.’

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams urged at a Dublin press conference at 4pm on Thursday: ‘The IRA decision presents an unparalleled challenge and opportunity for every nationalist and republican.

‘There is an enormous responsibility on us to seize this moment and to make Irish freedom a reality.

‘I would urge all Irish nationalists and republicans, including those who have shown such commitment as volunteers of the IRA, to put their undoubted talents and energy into building a new Ireland.’

British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier made a special statement in which he said: ‘Today may be the day that peace replaced war, that politics replaced terror, on the island of Ireland.’

He added: ‘It is what we have striven for and worked for throughout the eight years since the Good Friday Agreement.

‘It creates the circumstances in which the institutions can be revived.’

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said: ‘The end of the IRA as a paramilitary organisation is the outcome the governments have been working towards since the cessation of military activities in 1994.

‘If the IRA’s words are borne out by verified actions, it will be a momentous and historic development.

‘Our focus now is on completing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which has brought such immense benefits to this country.’

US President George W Bush said: ‘This IRA statement must now be followed by actions demonstrating the republican movement’s unequivocal commitment to the rule of law and to the renunciation of all paramilitary and criminal activities.

‘We understand that many, especially victims and their families, will be sceptical.

‘They will want to be certain that this terrorism and criminality are indeed things of the past.’