Blair, Ahern hail 'momentous development'

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today issued a joint statement welcoming the IRA’s declaration that its armed struggle is over.

The two leaders said that, if the IRA’s words were borne out by its actions, it would be “a momentous and historic development”.

Independent verification of the decommissioning of republican arms would be vital, they said.

The Independent Monitoring Commission has been asked to produce an additional report in January next year to help the governments assess whether the IRA’s criminal and paramilitary activities have actually come to an end.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern restated their commitment to the “full implementation” of the Good Friday Agreement.

And they called on all communities in Northern Ireland to work for the restoration of the Good Friday institutions and lasting peace and stability.

“We urge all political leaders, and everyone with a genuine interest in bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, to join with us in our determination to ensure continued and rapid progress,” said the statement.

Ahern and Blair statement in full:

This is the text of the joint statement released by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair today:

“We welcome today’s developments concerning the IRA. The end of the IRA as a paramilitary organisation is the outcome the Governments have been working towards since the cessation of military activity in 1994.

We acknowledge the significance of the IRA statement. Both governments are 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.

We also acknowledge that trust has been damaged and will take time to rebuild. Independent verification will be vitally important to enable trust and confidence to be restored.

Vital roles in the verification process will be played by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and the Independent Monitoring Commission. We have asked the IMC to produce an additional report in January 2006, three months after their next regular report.

Their reports will help the governments to assess whether all paramilitary and criminal activity on the part of the IRA has come to a decisive end and whether decommissioning has been fully completed.

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. It is our intention to work closely in partnership to grasp this opportunity to inject renewed momentum into the process.

We urge all political leaders, and everyone with a genuine interest in bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, to join with us in our determination to ensure continued and rapid progress.”

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