4 August 2005 Edition

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Renewed calls for implementation of Agreement

Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair

Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair

Political reaction by the Dublin and British Governments to the announcement by the IRA of an end to its armed campaign was swift and positive.

In an official joint statement both governments acknowledged the significance of the IRA statement and said they were "hopeful that the practical elements of this statement will be implemented in the terms set out. If the IRA's words are borne out by actions, it will be a momentous and historic development."

The joint statement also said that: "Verified acts of completion will provide a context in which we will expect all parties to work towards the full operation of the political institutions, including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, and the North-South structures, at the earliest practicable date.

"We also expect all parties and community leaders to use their influence to bring loyalist paramilitary and criminal activity to an end, including the full decommissioning of weapons.

"The normalisation of society in Northern Ireland also requires that all parts of the community support and enjoy the protection of the police. It is more important than ever that progress is made in extending support across all sections of the community for the new policing arrangements throughout Northern Ireland.

"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."

In his own statement, British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the clarity of the IRA statement and said it was "a step of unparalleled magnitude in the recent history of Northern Ireland".

Importantly he said it "creates the circumstances in which the institutions can be revived".

And in a separate statement on his own behalf and that of the Irish Government Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that the developments heralded a "new era for all of the people of the island of Ireland".

"I welcome the commitment by the IRA to end its armed campaign, to complete the process of decommissioning and to use exclusively peaceful means. This statement is unprecedented." Ahern also said that a focus now had to be completing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."

He ended his statement saying: "There are challenges still ahead, but today is a good day for Ireland."

Outstanding issues

In a letter to British MPs outlining the British Government's response to the IRA statement, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain warmly welcomed the IRA move saying that it was an "historic turning point".

He also said that caution about the IRA statement "should not become obduracy". "Since the IRA has stated it is relegating physical force to history and dedicating itself to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, I hope that all democrats will acknowledge the significance of that commitment. It opens up the prospect that devolved government can be re-established in Northern Ireland and on an inclusive basis."

Importantly Hain used the occasion to address outstanding issues of concern within that nationalist community in Ireland: "For its part the Government accepts that the IRA statement is intended to express acts of completion. On that basis, the Government will implement those areas of the Joint Declaration of 2003 which were dependent on this long-awaited decision by the IRA. We will introduce legislation this autumn to resolve the outstanding issue of paramilitary suspects 'on the run' and we will move quickly to begin the normalisation programme outlined in the Joint Declaration. I intend to publish an updated version of that programme shortly.

"In the light of acts of completion by the IRA the Government will play its part in facilitating a discussion with Northern Ireland political parties on the shared goal of devolving criminal justice and policing."

Hume says road totally clear

Former SDLP leader and one of the architects of the Irish Peace Process John Hume said of the IRA move: "I think it is a very important step, given the opposition that was coming from the DUP in particular.

"Now that the road is totally clear, I would be reasonably confident that we would make further progress.

"It is now the duty of all true democrats North and South to implement the will of the people. That's the strongest argument that can be put to the parties in the North.

Livingstone welcomes decision

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London welcomed the historic statement saying: "This is an historic decision by the IRA which should permanently banish the gun from Irish politics. The government should reciprocate by reinstating the democratic institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement. The invitation to Catholic and Protestant leaders to oversee the decommissioning of arms is a tangible effort to create confidence across all communities. It should be reciprocated by all politicians working together in the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Irish Peace Process has brought immense benefits to London, and especially to the London Irish who are this city's largest ethnic minority. All Londoners will welcome today's decision by the IRA as an historic step to make that peace permanent."

Trade union reaction

Jack O'Connor, President of Ireland's largest trade union SIPTU, welcomed the IRA statement saying: "In view of the fact that there has been an effective ceasefire for a number of years, the most important part of the IRA statement is its commitment to purely political and democratic programmes through peaceful means." He said the statement was historic and offered the prospect of permanent resolution of conflict.

"We look forward to the realisation, with full verification, of all aspects of the declaration. This, in turn, will facilitate the development of normal, progressive politics on this island, which will unquestionably serve the interests of working people and their families, North and South."

And Mick O'Reilly, Regional Secretary of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union said the statement "opens up new possibilities for co-operation between the Left and Sinn Féin".

Church

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Seán Brady told an audience at St Oliver Plunkett's Church, West Belfast that: "The statement by the IRA on Thursday was, in my view, potentially the most powerful, significant and welcome move towards genuine freedom in Ireland to have emerged from any paramilitary organisation since the beginning of the Troubles."


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