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Statement by An Taoiseach

 

Today’s developments herald a new era for all of the people of the island of Ireland.  This is a day that we have been working towards for over a decade.

All of us know that the history of modern Ireland has often been a blood-stained one.  But history’s tide can and will be reversed by people of goodwill refusing to be held as prisoners to the past. 

The tradition of using violence to advance political objectives has a long history in this country.  In all the upheavals and change over the centuries, we have never succeeded in bringing an end to that violent tradition.  I hope and believe that today can mark the day when the tradition of violence finally comes to an end. 

I welcome the commitment by the IRA to end its armed campaign, to complete the process of decommissioning and to use exclusively peaceful means.  This statement is unprecedented.  If the IRA’s words are borne out by verified actions, it will be a momentous and historic development.

It is important today that we remember the victims of violence – the thousands on all sides who were killed and injured, and the families who lost loved ones.  Today will be a difficult day for them and they are in our thoughts.

Our focus now is on the completing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which has brought such immense benefits to this country. 

As Prime Minister Blair and myself make clear in our joint statement, there are difficult issues to be addressed.  These include policing, the end to loyalist paramilitary activity and the restoration of the political institutions.

This will require hard work to reach agreement with all of the people of this island, including the representatives of the Unionist community.  I know that they will judge the IRA based on its behaviour and activity.

The Irish and British Governments will also judge this statement based on actions.  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

This is a great day for the constitutional republican tradition represented by the Irish Government and other parties, North and South.  The statement by the IRA – although very late in the day – is a clear acknowledgement of the moral imperative of constitutional republicanism: that violence has no place in securing Irish unity.

It is also a great day for the British Government and people, under the leadership of Tony Blair.  His contribution to peace in Ireland has been immense.  His commitment and energy have remained undimmed, even in very difficult times in recent weeks.  I thank him for his contribution.

Finally, I would like to say that is a very important day for me personally and for many others who have worked with me. 

I have always believed that the peace process is the most important work of any Irish political leader.  It is a privilege to be involved as Taoiseach on a day like today.

There are challenges still ahead, but today is a good day for Ireland.

ENDS