The IRA yesterday announced the end of its armed struggle against British imperialism.
The IRA statement said: ‘The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.
‘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 statement continued: ‘The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.’
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told a press conference in Dublin yesterday at 4pm: ‘This is a republican initiative, taken by republicans, to advance the peace process and the broad republican struggle and the movement forward toward unity and independence.’
He added: ‘It is up to the Irish and British governments to make a quantum leap forward into the type of island the people of Ireland want to see.’
Earlier in his remarks, he said: ‘Commitments were reneged on in the past.
‘There is now no possible excuse for the British and Irish governments not to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement.’
The IRA statement was welcomed by UK prime minister Blair.
He delivered a brief statement to journalists at Downing Street: ‘This may be the day when finally, after all the false dawns and dashed hopes, peace replaces war, politics replaces terror on the island of Ireland.
‘I welcome the statement of the IRA that ends its campaign. I welcome its clarity. I welcome the recognition that the only route to political change lies in exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
‘This is a step of unparalleled magnitude in the recent history of Northern Ireland.
‘The Unionist community in particular, and all of us throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom, will want to see this clear statement of principle kept to in practice.
‘The instruction in the IRA statement, that volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever, will be taken as a forthright denunciation of any activity, paramilitary or criminal. . .
‘Unionism will want to know that these circumstances are permanent and verified.
‘But if in time they are, then proper devolved democratic government should be restored in Northern Ireland.
‘Of course, there will continue to be fundamental disagreement about the past.
‘The IRA believe that their means were justified, the rest of us do not, and will remember today the many thousands of victims of their campaign.
‘But the best way to serve the memory of victims is to make the future brighter.
‘And there is, at least, some hope today that the future will indeed be such as to banish the ghastly and futile violence of Northern Ireland, forever. Thank you.’
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: ‘Today’s developments can herald a new era for all of the people on the island of Ireland. . .
‘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 Bush’s Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss said: ‘We will soon see whether these words will be turned into deeds. . .
‘I am hopeful there will be a major act of decommissioning, an end to all the arms that the IRA has, in the next few weeks if not sooner.’