Broad welcome for announcement on IRA arms

Monday 26 September 2005 21.59
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Bertie Ahern - 'Landmark development'
Bertie Ahern - 'Landmark development'
Sinn Féin - Supports 'genuine initiative'
Sinn Féin - Supports 'genuine initiative'

There has been a broad welcome to today’s announcement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning that the IRA has put its arms beyond use.

The Taoiseach has described today's developments as a momentous day for the people of this island, north and south.

Bertie Ahern said that after many false starts the IRA yielded to the will of the people as expressed in the referendum in the Good Friday Agreement.

'They have given up their weapons to pursue their aim by exclusively peaceful means,' said Mr Ahern.

The Taoiseach described the statement as one of enormous consequence. He went on to describe it as a landmark development and of real historic significance.

Mr Ahern said the IRA weapons are gone in a manner which has been witnessed and verified.

He added that the Irish Government will uphold the Good Friday Agreement. He said he wanted to see its full implementation and that there is no going back to the bad old days.

The Taoiseach said he understood the fears and uncertainties of the unionist community.

'I understand trust needs to be rebuilt and I know they may need time to reflect.' He urged the unionist community not to underestimate the importance of today's development.

McAleese eyes lasting solution

President Mary McAleese said the IICD statement will remove a major obstacle to the search for a lasting and peaceful solution to the problems which have beset Northern Ireland for so long.

She said: 'I hope that these developments will help to bring about a better climate in which trust between the two communities in Northern Ireland can flourish in the years ahead and that it will herald a speedy end to all ongoing paramilitary activity.

'We are indebted to both the Irish and British Governments and the many individuals and organisations who have worked tirelessly to bring about today's developments in order to help create a much better climate for political progress in Northern Ireland.'

Move is genuine, says Adams

The Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the IRA move was a genuine initiative to revive the peace process.

His party colleague, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, said the move is a 'momentous day for peace'.

'It is, in my view, a tremendous advance, a historic advance, for all the people of Ireland. It is the turning of the final page in the whole controversy over IRA arms,' said Mr McGuinness.

The Mid-Ulster MP added: 'It has always been used by unionists as an excuse but now that excuse has effectively been taken away. For all of us there is a tremendous, golden opportunity to move forward.'

Key obstacle removed: Kenny

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the completion of the decommissioning process removes one of the key obstacles to political progress in Northern Ireland. He said it also fulfils the clearly expressed democratic wish of the Irish people, North and South, when they endorsed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Mr Kenny said he hoped that the completion of IRA decommissioning will be matched in the future by the loyalist paramilitary organisations.

He urged those groups to re-establish contact with General de Chastelain and his colleagues.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said confirmation of IRA decommissioning is a triumph for constitutional republicanism.

He said the Provisional Movement has finally yielded to the will of the people and the veracity of the Constitutional Republican analysis.

'We must continue with our work to deliver in the areas of devolution, demilitarisation, policing and loyalist decommissioning,' said the minister.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the IICD announcement is 'an important milestone', and one which is warmly welcome, but that there is 'still some way to go'.

Mr Sargent said the important steps remaining are loyalist decommissioning, Sinn Féin signing up to the Police Commission, and unionists coming into government.