IRA decommissioning welcomed
LONDON, England -- The Irish Republican Army's decommissioning announcement has been welcomed with hope by participants in the peace process.
The paramilitary Irish Republican Army issued a statement on Tuesday saying it is starting to decommission its weapons.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the move was of "fundamental significance" to the communities in Ireland and also the wider world.
He said such a decision was unthinkable a few years ago, and praised Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for their participation.
"The [peace] process isn't perfect, but it is a darn sight better than the alternative which is no process at all."
He urged loyalist splinter groups to follow the IRA's lead, but warned that there could still be danger.
Blair urged politicians and grass root members from both sides of the sectarian divide to avoid the "wreckers and cynics" who do not want to see change and the peace process moving forward.
The national chairman of Sinn Fein, which is closely associated with the IRA, told the UK's Press Association news agency that the IRA's move was a "very significant" development.
"In my view this move by the IRA rekindles all the hope and expectation that was created at the time of the Good Friday Agreement," Mitchel McLaughlin said.
He added: "It is incumbent on the political leaderships to respond to this opportunity and on the two governments to move speedily to remove the remaining difficulties on issues like policing, demilitarisation, the reform of the criminal justice system, equality and human rights."
Ulster Unionists, who had threatened to bring down the Northern Ireland over the lack of progress in IRA decommissioning, were also delighted by the move.
Party leader David Trimble said: "This is the day we were told would never happen -- the decommissioning of weapons which have been made permanently unusable and permanently unavailable.
"It is significant and important that the materials dealt with were a variety of materials.
"I look forward with confidence to the reconstitution of the administration."
His party's executive is to meet on Saturday to approve the moves necessary to rescue the assembly.
The Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume, who retires next month as party leader, said he regarded the IRA announcement as "a very welcome statement".
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: "The government recognises the full import of what this decision means to the leadership of the IRA and welcomes it as an historic and substantial contribution to the peace process.
"This initiative has long been sought by many people and breaks the logjam in the peace process. This should be universally recognised and acted upon,"
Former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds -- regarded as one of the main architects of the Northern Ireland peace process -- said after hearing of the IRA declaration said: "It's a great day."
David Ervine, a leading member of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party, hailed the IRA statement as "seriously significant".
However, Ervine said the loyalist paramilitaries of the Ulster Volunteer Force, who are linked to the PUP, were unlikely to reciprocate in any way.
Asked why by the Press Association, he replied: "Because they are not ready."
Adams call to IRA welcomed
October 23, 2001
Republicans urge IRA disarmament
October 22, 2001
Reid faces tough N. Irish decision
October 20, 2001
Unionists quit N.Ireland assembly
October 18, 2001
The Northern Ireland Assembly
Sinn Fein Home Page
Good Friday Agreement
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