Blair and Ahern welcome IRA statement

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taioseach Bertie Ahern have welcomed the IRA’s announcement to end its armed campaign.

The two leaders issued a joint statement, which described the IRA’s announcement as a “momentous and historic development”.

The statement said: “The end of the IRA as a paramilitary organisation is the outcome the governments have been working towards since the cessation of military activity in 1994. Both governments are hopeful that the practical elements of this statement will be implemented in the terms set out.”

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern acknowledged that independent verification would be “vitally important” in order for trust and confidence to be restored in the province. The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) would both have “vital roles” to play in this process, the leaders said.

The Prime Minister and the Taioseach said that they had requested the IMC to produce an additional report three months after their regular report, in January 2006, in order to assess “whether all paramilitary and criminal activity on the part of the IRA has come to a decisive end and whether decommissioning has been fully completed.”

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern said that they expected all parties to work towards the full operation of political institutions, including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive and the North-South structures, at the “earliest practicable date”.

The leaders also said that they expected all parties and community leaders to help try to bring an end to loyalist paramilitary and criminal activity, including the full decommissioning of weapons and urged all sections of the community to support the new policing arrangements.

The statement concluded: "There has been great progress in recent years. The benefits of the Good Friday Agreement for the people of Ireland have been immense. The two Governments are committed to its full implementation. It is our intention to work closely in partnership to grasp this opportunity to inject renewed momentum into the process.

"We urge all political leaders, and everyone with a genuine interest in bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, to join with us in our determination to ensure continued and rapid progress."

The IRA announced its intention to cease its armed struggle at lunchtime on Thursday. In the long-awaited statement, all IRA members were instructed to “assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.”

The statement will take effect from 16:00 BST on Thursday.


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