The Irish Republican Army (IRA) published a historical statement about its future on Thursday in an attempt to end the 30 years of violence and recover peace between Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants.
The statement began with a formal order from the leadership of IRA to all units to dump their arms, which would take effect from 4pm on 28th July 2005. Two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and Catholic churches, were invited to testify the statement.
Furthermore, the statement said, "All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means."
The Provisional IRA emerged from the violence of the late 1960s as Northern Ireland’s Catholic population demanded radical changes to the unionist (British Protestant)-dominated state. Their campaign of violence was aimed at forcing an end to the British presence in Northern Ireland, leading to a united Ireland.
However, the Official IRA had long been criticised as dormant, especially when violence erupted between extremists in both communities.
According to The Times newspaper, the Provisional IRA was described as a "terrorist organisation" and was responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in three decades of the troubles.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said the statement was a "step of unparalleled magnitude", ending the 30 years of violence. The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, also welcomed the statement and said much hard work was needed.
In response to the IRA statement, the Archbishop of Ireland (Anglican Church) Robin Eames emphasises the moral issues involved in the current situation. He especially offered prayers for the many individuals and families who have lost loved ones through terrorism over the years, saying that they could never be forgotten in the history.
"Any moves which will remove the threat of terrorism and violence from the entire community must be welcomed," he said. "The IRA statement could herald the beginning of a period of transition from violence to peaceful and democratic co-existence."
Archbishop Eames urged Irish Republicans to back up their moral imperative by actions. On the other hand, the British Unionism must recognise that given the history of Irish Republicanism the IRA statement is a significant development and it should not be dismissed easily.
The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Dr Seán Brady, has also welcomed yesterday’s IRA statement. He echoed the call of Anglican Archbishop Eames to the IRA to put their words into action to foster peace.
Archbishop Brady stressed that peace is the responsibility of the entire community, urging all paramilitary groups to "banish forever the threat of violence".
"Peace is never achieved once and for all but has to be constantly fostered by everyone in our society," he said. "I hope that today will encourage everyone to continue that search for a lasting peace."