Reaction to IRA statement
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the IRA's decision as
"a step of unprecedented magnitude in the recent history of
Mr Blair said today could be the day in which "finally after all
the false dawns and dashed hopes, peace replaced war, politics
replaces terror on the island of Ireland".
He said: "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 exclusively in peaceful and democratic means. This
is a step of unparalleled magnitude in the recent history of
"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 of the IRA statement that Volunteers must not
engage in any other activity whatsoever will be taken as a
forthright denunciation of any activity, paramilitary or
Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Bertie Ahern hailed the statement
as historic and said "the war is over".
He said it satisfied the demands of the British and Irish
"As a statement goes, this delivers what I'd been seeking,"
"I had set down in the public domain since the meeting I had
with Sinn Fein in January what I wanted.
"I wanted to see decommissioning be dealt with, I wanted to see
the IRA as a paramilitary organisation ceasing and I wanted to
see that the issues as set out in the [two Government's] Joint
Declaration were covered, this statement covers those points,
there's no doubt about that.
"The war is over, the IRA's armed campaign is over,
paramilitarism is over and I believe that we can look to the
future of peace and prosperity based on mutual trust and
reconciliation and a final end to violence.
"And that's what people like myself and others have been working
for for a long time."
Mr Ahern said that if the IRA words "are borne out by the
verified action" it would be "a momentous and a very historic
"Our focus now, as is always as the two Governments, is on the
complete implementation of the Good Friday Agreement that people
voted for back in May of 1998 and that has brought such immense
benefits to the country."
Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson said any
possibility of the future resumption of power-sharing would
depend on how long it takes the IRA to complete the promised
decommissioning of all its weapons and how it is verified.
The Lagan Valley MP said: "That will be determined by how long
it takes the IRA to complete the decommissioning process. We've
no indication in this statement of when that will be done, they
simply say it will be done as soon as possible."
"We need to see that what happens is properly verified and when
the IRA talk about enhancing public confidence, how do they
intend to do that?"
Mr Donaldson said more clarification of the statement was
Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said his party
would be reserving judgment until the IRA's words were
translated into actions.
"I can't take any statement from the Republican movement at face
value because we have had that many of them in the past," he
"After having had so many false starts in the past, naturally
people are going to say actions speak louder than words.
"So let us see how this plays out. Let us see what happens to
the weapons, let us see what happens on the ground."
Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds said the move was a sensible
step into democracy.
He said he had been confident the IRA would make the declaration
ever since the first ceasefire was called in August 1994.
"I knew and believed and said it so many times since that we had
changed direction in relation to the republican movement and
that in time it would be seen as such. This is an historical
day," Mr Reynolds said.
Former SDLP leader and Nobel peace prize winner John Hume said
today's IRA statement was "a very important step" and it is
up to the British and Irish governments and the Norths political
parties to implement the Good Friday Agreement.
He said all true democrats now had to respond to the will of the
"I think it is a very important step, given the opposition that
was coming from the DUP in particular," he said.
"Now that the road is totally clear, I would be reasonably
confident that we would make further progress."
There was no immediate response from the hardline Republican
Sinn Fein or the breakaway 32 County Sovereignty Committee.
President George Bushs special envoy on the North, Mitchell
Reiss, described the statement as very positive and very
He said whether it was truly historic would be determined in the
coming weeks and months.
We will soon see whether these words will be turned into
deeds, he said. Everybody would like to move as quickly as
possible but lets move ahead clearly and do it in a way which
Mr Reiss was briefed on developments in Washington this morning
by Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness and said he had
been encouraged by what he was told.
Republican congressman Peter King branded the breakthrough a
truly defining moment in Irish history.
He said it was the most dramatic step forward in advancing the
King, a leading Sinn Féin supporter, said he had been told two
large IRA arms caches would be destroyed later in the day, but
he said he did not know where.
I can understand the Unionists having some scepticism, which is
why I think it will take several months to go back into
government, but theres no reason negotiations cant start
immediately, he said.