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29 September 2005 Edition

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Irish and British Governments acknowledge "landmark development"

The Irish and British Governments responded positively to Monday's report from the IICD. In a statement they said they warmly welcomed what they termed a "landmark development".

The statement continued: "Having sought to achieve this outcome for so many years, its significance now needs to be acknowledged and recognised. It is the clearest signal ever that the IRA's armed campaign is over.

"We also welcome the presence of clergymen from the Protestant and Catholic communities as independent witnesses to the decommissioning process. Their presence should enhance public confidence."

Major step forward

The governments said that in a joint statement on 28 July, they had said 'the IRA's words must be borne out by actions' and that Monday's IICD report "represents a major step forward in this regard".

The statement went on to say that both governments believed that the Peace Process would now be best served by "the earliest practicable restoration of the devolved institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. We recognise that trust and confidence will take time to rebuild but we hope that today's developments will provide a vital stimulus. For their part the governments will do everything we can to facilitate progress."

The governments added that the IRA initiative made it "all the more urgent that loyalist paramilitary activity be brought to an end and that all loyalist arms be decommissioned".

In a separate statement Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that it was a momentous day for the people of Ireland. He said that the IRA had moved on the arms issue and that it now intended to pursue its aims by exclusively peaceful means.

Ahern acknowledged the report from the IICD and the statements of the independent witnesses. "We have heard from General De Chastelain and from the independent witnesses, Reverend Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid. These are men of integrity. Their words are clear. And they are very welcome."

He added that the IICD's statement "that the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use is of enormous consequence. It is a landmark development. It is of real historic significance.

Ahern went on to say that: "We have a duty to work now to build a better Ireland. An Ireland that is a warm home for everybody who lives here. I promise that the Irish Government will uphold the Good Friday Agreement. We want to see its full implementation. There is no going back to the bad old days. The Good Friday Agreement has delivered peace."

Directly addressing Unionists Ahern said: I understand the fears and uncertainties of the unionist community. I understand that trust needs to be rebuilt. I know they may need time to reflect. But I urge them not to under-estimate the importance of today's developments."

Seize the opportunity

He concluded by calling on everyone to "now seize the opportunity that is opening in front of us to build a better Ireland for all its people".

Separately British Prime Minister Tony Blair also welcomed General de Chastelain's statement and that of the independent witnesses. He said the British Government would implement its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and he believed this will lead to the restoration of devolved government in the North and a more peaceful future for people there.

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