The IRA has withdrawn its offer to put all its weapons "completely and verifiably" beyond use.
A statement passed to the An Phoblacht newspaper on Wednesday said the British and Irish governments had "tried its patience to the limit".
Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday that ongoing IRA activity was the "obstacle to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland".
What is your reaction to the announcement? What does the future hold for the peace process in Northern Ireland? Send us your views using the form on the right.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:
Can anyone be surprised? Of course not! It is not possible for the IRA to disarm. If they hand in one gun they will be asked for more. If they hand in 10,000 guns they will be asked for more, and so on. How can they ever prove they have disarmed? They can't. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and it will take a generation or more of no violence before any of us believe it has finished. Add to this the fact that the IRA never intended to disarm and the situation looks even more bleak. The IRA are terrorists and outside the law until such time as the Irish people stop supporting them.
I Hill, Maidenhead
There is a simple question to answer: Who has moved most in the last years? I'll give you a hint: Certainly not Mr Paisley, and certainly not the UK Government who still cannot see that this last English colony needs to be set free. No sympathy for the IRA, but let the Irish people decide, not some protestant weirdos!
Ronald Vopel, Brussels, Belgium
Anyone with a weapon should be considered a criminal unless they are empowered by their state to do so. If you do not agree with your state, use the ballot not the bullet.
Peter Raper, Wakefield England
The IRA are terrorists, and as such the British government should not even be thinking about negotiating with them, as is their stated policy.
As a first generation American whose father and grandparents were born in the Republic, I am shocked by the peace process more and more as it unfolds. I want everyone to think, both governments and loyalists and British citizens whom think troops should be redeployed: What has happened for the past 40 years when you back the IRA into a corner, what has happened when you send in the SAS? The IRA made an offer to give up its weapons, it decommissioned on 3 other occasions. So why now, do people decide to try to accuse, threaten, and intimidate the IRA? The DUP had their chance at peace and spat it back, now I fear the IRA Army Council has been forced into the position that there is no negotiating. All the DUP has done with this rejection is show the IRA and Republicans that violence, not negotiations, get action.
Anon, NYC, USA
Firstly, it is my view that the latest announcement by Sinn Fein/IRA can only be attributable to the accusations that they robbed the Northern Bank. I do not think this was not a good idea when there is no real proof to suggest they did it. Aside from that, if this country is to move forward they need to get the weapons put beyond use, and photographs to prove it. The Agreement stated that this would happen in return for letting their men out of prison and getting rid of a lot of security measures. What has happened now? The boyos are out, the security has gone, but they still have their weapons. Is it any wonder Ian Paisley and the DUP will not move forward until they have photographic evidence that the IRA have decommissioned and genuinely want to move the process forward for a non-violent, democratic province for everyone on BOTH sides..
The peace process is N. Ireland is stalled because the Unionists want it stalled. There is still infighting and violence among the Loyalist Paramilitaries, yet Republicans do not focus on that. Paisley wants nothing to do with the peace process, and is using the photographic evidence and the bank robbery as a scapegoat.
Mike, NYC, USA
The Unionists will never share power with the Republicans. The IRA have given up most of there weapons but I haven't noticed the UVV,UVA,UDA and all the other Loyalist para-military groups handing over their weapons or stopping "punishments" for unsociable offences. The Unionists will always find another reason to prevent the Republicans from sharing power .
Graham Jubb, Northop, Wales
While the situation is very reactionary at the moment, the argument that paramilitaries are standing in the way of peace is an undeniable fact. Decommissioning is not a reality and even if no shots are being fired there is still a threat of criminality. It does not matter which side is speaking honestly, peace will not become a reality, until the paramilitaries choose it by disarming.
Bradley Collier, US
When terrorists operate in Afghanistan or Iraq, we bomb the living daylights out of them. When they operate in our back yard, our politicians bend over backwards to accommodate them. Does anyone else see the double standard here?
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland
Let's get on with the Stormont Agreement without these parties. We need a government up and running to serve the people of Northern Ireland as the present British government seem to implement their trumped up ideas like water rates and stealth taxes on the working class people. The politicians are letting every one down in this country by not agreeing with each other.
Now that the IRA has backed away from the Good Friday agreement will all those murderers that got an amnesty go back to jail?
Anne , Enniskillen
In order for the IRA to lay down their weapons, there must be absolute trust that the Protestant factions do likewise. Fair-mindedness by the British government is the key.
Richard Burns, Ronkonkoma, New York, USA
Seeing that the Dublin government and Irish police are also of the opinion that the IRA did the bank robbery, maybe it's about time that the Northern republicans recognised that the IRA really did had a hand in this event and not spend their time blaming everyone else.
Nick, Danville, CA, USA
The Irish troubles are the one persistent sore spot in UK-US relations - given the large percentage of US citizens of full or partial Irish descent. You've been in full or partial control of Ireland for 900 years or more - conquerors, oppressors, scavengers, absentee landlords and unwelcome police force. In the North - assist those who don't want to stay after the transition to leave and then do so you - for good. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you've been fighting a losing battle there since conceding the South early last century, and that you can have lasting peace when you can finally bring yourselves to close out a dark 900-year-old chapter in history.
John Muller, DuPage County, Illinois, USA
I believe the IRA has no intention of using the weapons it refuses to hand over; instead, this stance is just a political move to bring more attention to the inequities between the two supposedly negotiating sides. Unionists and their sympathizers are still bullying the Catholics and dragging their feet on real change in the political and economic order established in Northern Ireland. If we see a genuine commitment to those kind of deep changes, I think you'll get a very different reaction from the IRA.
Deborah, United States
The IRA has no mandate from the people of Ireland, who voted for them? I'm one may of many Nationalists who is sick and tired of wealthy gangsters calling the shots.
Paul, Newry, N Ireland
Not all of the southern Irish want to be united with the North. They feel that it will bring them down in the same manner as East/West Germany unification is not popular with all Germans. But if the majority of the Irish wish to be of united, then best of luck to them and we shouldn't stand in their way. Our loss will be their gain! But then will all the Irish in Kilburn be illegal immigrants?
Ray M, Brit in the US
Until evidence is provided that shows without doubt that the IRA was guilty of the bank robbery then there is no sense in all this rubbish. Just because some people think they are gangsters doesn't mean they are .Show me the proof. I know they are not saints, I know they are not innocents, but that does not mean that they are guilty of a crime just because Hugh Orde says so. He is just a police man not the fountain of all knowledge. He has his own agenda going; he does not want to be stuck in Northern Ireland for the rest of his career.
Ciaran, Newry, Ireland
This announcement is no surprise, Sinn Fein/IRA have taken the people of Northern Ireland for a ride, and we can only assume they were never sincerely committed to the peace process.
Last summer, I spent five weeks studying peace building and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland. The peace process is necessary for Northern Ireland to move forward and start a new chapter, one that doesn't involve terrorism and blame. The peace process should be above ruffian politics; unfortunately, it is not.
David Schuld, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Once more the offer of peace has been cast aside in answer to the whims of a loyalist minority. Britain has shown once again it is not a fair broker in the peace process.
Liam, Dublin, Ireland
Publish the evidence so we can judge for ourselves. We will then know who is being less than honest.
I'm not in the least surprised - I never believed that they would do otherwise. They have only been waiting for a plausible excuse.
Chris James, Swindon
Unfortunately there comes a time when you have to accept that reason and accommodation will never actually work out. The IRA has shown they want to retain the tools of terror - unacceptable in today's world. They've had plenty of opportunities to be peacemakers but seem to prefer to remain terrorists. For fairness' sake, give them one last chance - then if they choose not to take it, point the War On Terror in their direction!
OT, Sunderland, England
This is very sad news for the peace process. What would the leadership of the IRA do if they did decommission? Their power would be gone and their 'status' lowered. They rule by fear. Remember what Gerry Adams once said in a speech, 'The IRA haven't gone away you know'. Gerry Adams and McGuiness have rooms at Westminster, but will not swear allegiance to the Crown. Tony Blair should deal with the terrorists on his own doorstep.
Perhaps the next time Sinn Fein offers the IRA on plate, the Unionists and Dublin and London politicians will have the good grace to accept it. It should all have been over by now. Is it not time negotiations started in earnest?
Lugo Xavier, Belfast Northern Ireland
I'm not 100% convinced the IRA did the bank raid. Given the sensitivities the time to lay the blame is when people either claim responsibility or are arrested and charged, not before.
The IRA is so petulant, childish and unreasonable it's a wonder anyone ever believed they'd give up arms in the first place. Even if they do decommission the first time they disagree with a policy of the power-sharing executive they'll be out spending their ill-gotten gains on more guns , bombs and misery.
Kevin, West Midlands
The bottom line is this: In the Good Friday referendum, which I voted for, the terrorists were to be released and their arms were to be decommissioned. This would lead to reconciliation and peace. Well, the terrorists are out, but they haven't handed in their arms. That's not what I voted for! I suspect the majority of the province feels the same way. All paramilitary groups must disband and give up their racketeering, gangsterism and arms! There is no position for them in a post Good Friday Ulster.
About time the IRA said that enough is enough. Republicans have gone too far while the British war machine and mechanisms to help collusion with unionist paramilitaries remains in place. Like it or not, the IRA are the defenders of their people and won't be going away until this threat has gone and the country is united.
Dee , North Belfast
A sad but inevitable result. All credit to the IRA for trying, the British government and particularly the Unionists have a lot to answer for.
Keith, Sunderland, UK
The IRA is not the only terrorist organisation in Northern Ireland. All sides have to agree to put arms beyond use, there's no point if it's all one sided. Sinn Fein cannot be excluded from the peace talks as they clearly represent a significant section of Northern Ireland's society, and they have a right to determine their future.
I cannot believe the amount of IRA apologists posting here. Only a tiny percentage of Unionist voters ever vote for parties associated with terror. At the last election over half the nationalist vote went to IRA/Sinn Fein. Until the nationalist community itself rejects terrorism and violence how can we ever move forward here?
Chris Calder, Belfast
Blame and counter blame. N Ireland must move forward. The peace process is too important to be derailed by this spat. Democracy defined that the lead parties would be Sinn Fein and DUP. Can they please get on with being politicians and not spokesmen.
Gavin, Hull, UK
So back to square one again - is there such a thing as Northern Ireland fatigue? Frankly if they can't sort themselves out we should just leave them to it. Northern Ireland is a burden on the British taxpayer - if they don't want peace then that's their problem!
I believe this is very sad news. Peace is important for us all. However, the Good Friday Agreement was not honoured by the Unionist side. The true cause of this problem is lack of strong Unionist leadership. The small points that are all being raised now (photographs of arms?) were never mentioned previously. I voted to change my Constitution to give up my territorial claim to that part of Ireland. There has been no voluntary gesture from the Unionist leadership. Vested interests have no desire for peace. As an Irish person, I have not seen one positive gesture or comment from the Unionist leadership. If the killing restarts, the blame must be shared among all sides for intransigence.
Aidan Kerins, Dublin, Ireland
It is irrelevant whether the IRA were involved with the bank raid or not. It is irrelevant whether the IRA decommission or not. The IRA by its very existence poses is a threat of violence to the people of the UK and the Irish Republic. They need to realise and acknowledge that their idea of politics belongs in the 18th century, not in a modern democracy.
Albert, Edinburgh & Dublin
How many years have successive British governments together with other interested parties been trying to sort this situation out? And yet here we are attempting to achieve in the middle east of all places what we so manifestly cannot do at home.
Accusing the IRA without proof is not a good move and the IRA's change in mood with regard to decommissioning is the result. It is possible that the source of the accusation, the bank robbery, was undertaken by a splinter group within the IRA because the proceeds of crime is traditionally how many so called 'freedom fighters' have survived. However, to suggest that the robbery was sanctioned by the leadership is foolhardy to say the least.
Dave Weller, Ashford, England
Did anyone really think that the IRA would disarm? We will never see a true peace in Northern Ireland while there are those on both sides with weapons. Is it now time that the peace train as it is called moves on without Sinn Fein/IRA!
Problem is too many in the paramilitaries have too much invested in the Troubles in terms of wealth and prestige to easily give it up. Its just a pity the rest of us have to be disenfranchised because of their greed.
B H, Belfast, NI
Northern Ireland has come so, so far in my life time. It's sad to see that we still have the politicians holding up what could be complete peace and harmony, purely because of bureaucratically influenced policies. It's time more pressure was put on party leaders to stop acting like children with a grudge.
Jake, Copford, Essex
Yet again the British government has given in to Unionist pressure and lost a genuine opportunity to move the process on and see IRA arms put completely beyond use. The insistence of photographs by the DUP is the latest in a long line of obstructions put in place by those who do not want to share power.
This was inevitable. I could see no difference between this latest agreement and the old Sunningdale form of words, and this has foundered in the same way. It's a shame, because the IRA really did make the first moves this time, and much as I loathe violence, they do deserve some credit for that. The problem remains as intractable as ever, and an awful warning to those who suppose that peace in Palestine (or Iraq) will be easy.
Bob Harvey, Lincs, UK
I personally don't care whether the arms are decommissioned or not or whether they are visibly seen to be commissioned so long as we have a permanent peace in NI. I have maintained from the outset that IRA will never give up their arms, I now believe this to be true and that they are just playing at brinkmanship! As for the robbery, does it really matter who carried it out, the fact remains that these types of crime are carried out in all parts of the land by all sorts of criminals for any reason you like. In conclusion, the IRA are saying its my ball and I'm taking it and going so you can't play anymore unless its on my terms.
It is now 6 years since the Good Friday Agreement. Both Loyalists and Republicans have yet to disarm. Do you think they ever will? They won't. That would be too much of a decent thing. Even so, Northern Ireland has immense potential and we have come along way. A new generation is realising the problems of hatred and bigotry and is choosing to leave it behind.
I think this statement by the IRA is a late Christmas present for the Loyalists. They do not want peace to break out as if it does, negotiations will follow and in negotiations the Loyalists have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Peter, Philippines (originally from Derry)
Isn't this just another demonstration by the IRA that they are not at all interested in a democratic process but are prepared always to use violence and intimidation? How many more years will the people have to suffer this?
Colin Taylor, Yorkshire
I grew up in N Ireland and like most people was very happy for an all-inclusive settlement. But the problem in NI politics is that the days when the republican side represented genuine grievances is long gone and it now is nothing more than gangsterism - as it is with the loyalist paramilitaries. Why these people should continue to be involved in a peaceful democratic process is beyond me.
Mark Mcfarland, London
The real issue lies is not when the IRA will decommission, but rather when will the British and Irish governments stop pandering to Unionist rhetoric and accept the Republican march for peace.
Too bad that the Police Service in NI has now been downsized and re-organised, following the Patten report, on the basis that IRA/Sinn Fein were putting their weapons beyond use.
Colin Soames, UK
Does anyone in the UK actually care whether Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom? Isn't it time the UK Government returned Northern Ireland to its rightful owners and got rid of this thorn in its side?
The two governments have been misguided in their attempts to create a peaceful settlement in NI. In their pursuit of great honours and "We were the men that done it" they have blinded their judgements and made grounds for the West Belfast community to hate each other even more.
Nick , Newcastle Upon Tyne
The IRA, like their 'loyalist' counterparts are splintered, marginalised and have criminal elements within. Thus elements of banditry is normal in most post conflict situations. Politicians have the responsibility not to be pushed off course by such events.
Philip Walker, Valence, France
If people knew the history of the negotiations in N Ireland, they'd understand Sinn Fein/ IRA's frustration. Whether the bank robbery was official, or carried out by criminals who gained experience from IRA membership, Sinn Fein still represent the majority of nationalist opinion and denounce the robbers. They have had their peace offering of decommissioning slapped back in their face by DUP, why not withdraw it.
Adam Fisk, Wigan, England
The IRA and Sinn Fein are not serious about politics. What I find so worrying is the fact that Northern Irish voters elect them in the first place when they've got a perfectly good SDLP party to vote for. The future of Ireland, even a united one, starts when the IRA finishes. Not the other way round. I do hope Americans reading this will think twice about funding Irish groups. They use your money for criminal purposes and just continue the pain for Britain and Ireland.
The peace process will inevitably trundle onward, with tittle tattle from both sides of the argument. When talking about sanctioning Sinn Fein, let's remember this is a democratically elected party. Whose means would it serve to deny the nationalist a voice? Probably the IRA propaganda machine and the argument for a return to violence.
Matt F, Belfast
The IRA and Sinn Fein are not fooling any right minded people in this world, they are a sham. Does anyone actually believe that they intended to decommission all of their weapons, does anyone actually believe that they did not continue their fundraising activities around the world, does anyone actually believe they did not continue to look for new and more sophisticated weaponry whilst making a public show of removing what was no longer necessary and passing it off as a massive gesture towards peace, does anyone actually believe they are not still involving themselves in crime both here and abroad. So why does our Government treat them with kid gloves. Stand up to them.
It's a farce! They should round up all those released after Good Friday and lock them all up again!
Have they withdrawn it or was it really there in the first place? It seems to me that there was no commitment in the first place. It should be the rest of Britain that has had its 'patience tried to the limit'.
Garth Anthony, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This bad news was inevitable from the moment the police, followed by the government went public with there suspicions. I hope they never suspect me of anything!
Alan Joinson, Abingdon, UK
Here we go again! Is it going to be back to bombs scares, car bombs, police and army check points? Is it going to be death threats and intimidation and murder? The IRA know if they start again people will not tolerate it as we have had enough. Peace is something people want and its time to bring an iron fist on terrorists from all sides and give them the option of "stop" or "be stopped"
Rob, Northern Ireland
At least we now know why the IRA was so unwilling to decommission its arms. So it can use them in bank robberies and other criminal activities.
Sinn Fein have a legitimate democratic mandate to represent a large percentage of the peoples of Northern Ireland. It seems that democracy can be ignored if we don't like the results.
Ken Heaven, Essex, UK
This is a sad but expected turn of events. I feel the IRA never intended to complete their disarming process. The recent bank robbery is proof that they are still the active criminals that they always were, guess they will turn to the cowardly bombings as well now?
No surprise there then. The IRA stuck their bottom lip out and sulked when asked to allow photo evidence of weapon decommissioning. They seemed to think it was an outrage that people wanted proof. Can't think why, never mind. It's time to set aside all the petty wrangling over big and little differences, the grudges, the slights and all the interminable marching up and down. Stop the violence now. Not because someone else does. Not because it's easy. Not because it's an admission of defeat or a symbol of victory but simply because it's what any decent citizen of this wonderful planet we call Earth should do.
Paul Villa, Wales
I'm not surprised at all by the IRA statement. When do we ever hear a call for decommissioning on the loyalist side, just have a look at the violence and murder they have carried out after the IRA ceasefire in 1997. I would put the blame on the Irish and British governments for this statement and the DUP's refusal to sit in government with republicans.
Last year, the IRA did say it would complete the decommissioning process within weeks and move into what it called a new mode but have been blocked from doing so by continual loyalist/unionist petty conditions. It was inevitable there patience would run out. The simple fact is that the IRA and Sinn Fein do represent the feelings of Irish nationalists in the north who still feel they are living under an occupying force. There will be no peace without including these people in the process. It would have been akin to excluding the ANC from the South African Peace Process or the PLO from the from the Middle East Peace Process. This conflict has already dragged on for centuries. It's time for loyalist/unionist politicians to get involved with nationalists in finding a lasting peace and not just be trying to score petty political points which will inevitably cause future innocent deaths on both sides.
Patrick Smith, Clonee, Co. Meath
The police made a grave error when they blamed the IRA for the bank raid. The imbalance in this process is the cause here, we have heard so little about loyalist arms or loyalist violence. The British government never cared about loyalist violence because it stayed off the mainland.
So the IRA are throwing their toys out of their pram - there's a surprise. What else can you expect from a bunch of terrorists who really have no intention of agreeing to anything that doesn't suit their own agendas.
The IRA had never intended to give up there weapons, they are too deep into the mafia game. There are 2000 troops on standby to return to Northern Ireland with armour, I think it is time to treat the IRA like the terrorists in Iraq. They even told lies about their involvement in Colombia, so how can anyone ever believe what they say.
Dave Wilson, Edinburgh/South America
The lies of the IRA exposed. Hopefully in the future these terrorists will gain no support from sponsors in the USA.
Chris, London UK
So if Ireland and Northern Ireland are harbouring terrorists, does that not make the UK and Ireland legitimate targets for Bush and Blair's war on terror? Hmm, something wrong with the logic there!
After the intelligence debacle over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it is very difficult to trust what we are being told by the police in Northern Ireland or the British and Irish governments. The situation is of such importance that evidence should be made public. The only things I have seen reported in the Irish press amount to little more than "it must have been the IRA because no-one else could pull off a job like this". Pathetic really if it weren't so serious. Plus, it's a shame that American eyes are turned elsewhere at the moment. Bill Clinton demonstrated a good deal of concern over the situation in Ireland. Had he still been in power, it's unlikely that positions would have become so entrenched.
Sue B, Barcelona, Spain
Same old same old. At the end of the day negotiations in one form or another will continue, what else is there. Sinn Fein and to an extent the IRA really do represent a large segment of Northern Irish opinion, and so long as that is true, they have to be involved in any constitutional settlement. Either persuade the people not to follow them, or persuade them to lead the people where you want to go. You have to do one or the other,
Steve Linton, St Andrews
This news goes to show the IRA and Sinn Fein should never have been allowed to join the attempt of a peaceful government in the first place because they are not for peace at all.
Sinn Fein/IRA have proven to the world that they have no intention of keeping their promises. Ian Paisley and the Democratic Unionist Party have been right for many years in calling for Sinn Fein/IRA to be excluded from the political process. Ulster will be much better off in the long run if and when Sinn Fein/IRA get proscribed as an international terrorist organisation.
Aidan Work, Wellington, New Zealand.
The IRA (in whatever guise may be in fashion at the moment) do not want peace in Northern Ireland. It now appears very likely that they carried out the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast. And for the obvious reason: re-arming, recruiting, re-starting their terror campaign at some point in the future. How tragic a thought that is.
Divide kids in two different school systems and teach them different versions of history - is anyone surprised there is a lack of understanding? despite this Northern Ireland has come a long long way in the 15 years I've lived here.
It is no wonder the Republicans have lost patience. The history of British involvement in Ireland (as an occupying force) hardly inspires trust. The sooner we do what the vast majority of the Irish people want and pull out the better. The so called 'loyalists' are loyal only to themselves - it suites them to have the British army there because we keep a minority in power. Where are the demands for loyalist arms to be handed in?
Keith Miles, Bristol
Religious fanaticism is never going to solve any problem. Put an end to specific religious schooling and other separatist lifestyles, that would be the only chance to break through this deadlock situation.
Johanna Kaschke, London, UK
This is such a sad turn of events for everyone who lives in or loves N Ireland.
Anon, Newcastle, Australia