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Letter by Peter Hain on the Ending of the IRA Armed Campaign, (28 July 2005)

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Text: Peter Hain... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Text of Letter by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to Members of Parliament outlining the Government's response to the IRA statement announcing the ending of the IRA Armed Campaign, (28 July 2005)


"Today the IRA issued a statement about its future. As the House is not sitting, I am writing to let you know the Government's response.

I warmly welcome what the IRA has said. It is a major move by the IRA of a kind the Prime Minister called for in his speech in Belfast in October 2002 - an historic turning point for Northern Ireland. The degree of consultation in the IRA and the lack of conditionality in the statement seem to the Government to be very significant features.

The clarity of this statement is in contrast to its predecessors. It states in plain language that the armed campaign is at an end. Nevertheless, the way that the conflict has played out in Northern Ireland means that there will be some caution. But caution should not become obduracy. Since the IRA has stated it is relegating physical force to history and dedicating itself to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, I hope that all democrats will acknowledge the significance of that commitment. It opens up the prospect that devolved government can be re-established in Northern Ireland and on an inclusive basis.

The words do, of course, need to be carried through in actions - actions that are verified by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) over the coming months. Assuming that is the case, the statement should mean an end to paramilitarism and all that went with it - intelligence-gathering, recruitment and training, so-called punishment beatings and exiling, the procurement of weapons and so on - as well as, crucially, of criminality. We have asked the IMC to produce an additional report in January 2006, three months after their next regular report in October, to enable us to see progress on the ground. We also look forward to confirmation by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning that the IRA's arsenal has been decommissioned.

All of us, and particularly the people of Northern Ireland, have looked forward to the day when all violence was a thing of the past. Many people, in different walks of life, have worked to bring this about. We owe a debt to them all. We must also remember and recognise the many victims of violence. It is for them and their families that closure of this chapter of Northern Ireland's history will be especially significant.

For its part the Government accepts that the IRA statement is intended to express acts of completion. On that basis, the Government will implement those areas of the Joint Declaration of 2003 which were dependent on this long-awaited decision by the IRA. We will introduce legislation this autumn to resolve the outstanding issue of paramilitary suspects 'on the run' and we will move quickly to begin the normalisation programme outlined in the Joint Declaration. I intend to publish an updated version of that programme shortly.

In the light of acts of completion by the IRA the Government will play its part in facilitating a discussion with Northern Ireland political parties on the shared goal of devolving criminal justice and policing. We would like to see Sinn Fein members taking their seats on the Policing Board at the earliest opportunity because support for policing from all political parties right across the community in Northern Ireland is in the interests of everyone.

We need to maintain our focus on eradicating all paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland - whether Loyalist or Republican - but the IRA's decision is a very important step indeed on the way to ensuring that future generations in Northern Ireland will be able to lead normal lives in peace and security. If the words of the statement are borne out in actions over the coming weeks and months, they will be seen as an historic milestone in the turbulent and often painful history of Northern Ireland. There will be an undeniable responsibility on unionists to participate in Government with Sinn Fein. Then the twin goals of permanent peace and sustainable devolved government can at last be realised. It is in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland not only that violence and criminality come to an end, but also that devolved government is re-established so that people have greater control over decisions affecting them. Northern Ireland deserves no less."


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