Republicans have consistently said the focus by the UK government and unionists on IRA decommissioning slowed the peace process almost from the day that it called its first ceasefire in 1994.
Sinn Fein has long argued that decommissioning remains one strand of a process that should lead to "all the guns being taken out of Irish politics".
Republicans wanted to see any gestures they made matched by what they called "demilitarisation" - in other words scaling down and finally removing the British military presence in Northern Ireland.
Since that first ceasefire, a number of key IRA statements have indicated the state of its thinking as the peace process has progressed.
Despite the IRA's claim to be be fully committed to the peace process, many unionists remained at least sceptical or deeply hostile.
30 April 1998
The first crucial statement on how it would act following the Good Friday Agreement came on 30 April.
The agreement, said the IRA, "clearly falls short of presenting a solid basis for a lasting settlement".
But it added: "The Good Friday document does mark a significant development. But whether or not this heralds a transformation of the situation is dependent totally on the will of the British government.
Let us make it clear that there will be no decommissioning by the IRA
"Accordingly, we will carefully monitor the situation."
On decommissioning, the IRA said:
"The IRA commitment to assisting the search for justice and peace is a matter of public record.
"This commitment remains.
"Let us make it clear that there will be no decommissioning by the IRA.
"This issue, as with any other matter affecting the IRA, its functions and objectives, is a matter only for the IRA, to be decided upon and pronounced upon by us."
21 July 1999
Attempts to set up the Northern Ireland Assembly failed because unionists refused to sit in the administration with republicans without prior decommissioning by the IRA.
The subsequent IRA statement blamed the British government but, crucially, did not appear to rule out decommissioning:
Those who demand the IRA decommissioning lend themselves in the current context to the failed agenda which seeks the defeat of the IRA.
"The argument that the present political process can deliver real and meaningful change has been significantly undermined by the course of events over the past 15 months.
"We have contributed in a meaningful way to the creation of a climate which would facilitate the search for a durable settlement.
"Those who demand the decommissioning of IRA weapons lend themselves in the current context inadvertently or otherwise to the failed agenda which seeks the defeat of the IRA.
"The British Government has the power to change the context and should do so."
17 November 1999
Following the Mitchell review of the peace process, the parties made another attempt to find a way forward.
As the deadline for a deal came closer, it became clear that all parties to the agreement were being urged to give ground on key issues as part of a carefully sequenced train of events.
The IRA's part in this would be to commit a representative to negotiations with John de Chastelain, the Canadian general overseeing decommissioning.
"The IRA is willing to further enhance the peace process and consequently, following the establishment of the institutions agreed on Good Friday last year, the IRA leadership will appoint a representative to enter into discussions with General John de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning."
Days after agreement over the assembly was reached, the IRA confirmed that a representative had met Gen de Chastelain.
5 February 2000
By February 2000, First Minister David Trimble was preparing to make good on his threat to resign because of no movement on arms by the IRA.
The IRA's subsequent statement attacked the Northern Ireland Secretary for accusing it of betrayal over decommissioning.
"We have never entered into any agreement or undertaking or understanding at any time whatsoever on any aspect of decommissioning," it said.
"We have not broken any commitment or betrayed anyone. It is the IRA who took the first step to remove the guns from Irish politics by silencing weapons.
"Those who have once again made the political process conditional on the decommissioning of silenced IRA guns are responsible for creating the current difficulties and for keeping the peace process in a state of perpetual crisis."
On 11 February the Secretary of State suspended the assembly to prevent its collapse.
Four days later the IRA issued another statement announcing that it had cut ties with the independent decommissioning body.
6 May 2000
Despite public deadlock, negotiations continued behind the scenes to restore devolution.
Those negotiations led to a proposed sequence of events which envisaged a return to power-sharing linked to a firm IRA commitment to decommissioning.
The IRA leadership will initiate a process that will completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use
IRA Statement, 6 May 2000
In turn, any IRA action would, it appeared, be dependent on British movement on policing reform and demilitarisation.
On 6 May the IRA made an unprecedented statement that independent international inspectors would be allowed in to some of its arms dumps.
"The IRA leadership is committed to resolving the issue of arms.
"The full implementation, on a progressive and irreversible basis by the two governments, especially the British government, of what they have agreed will provide a political context, in an enduring political process, with the potential to remove the causes of conflict, and in which Irish Republicans, and Unionists can, as equals pursue our respective political objectives peacefully.
"In that context, the IRA leadership will initiate a process that will completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use.
"We will resume contact with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and enter into further discussions.
"There is no threat to the peace process from the IRA.
"In this context, the IRA leadership has agreed to put in place, within weeks, a confidence-building measure to confirm that our weapons remain secure.
"The contents of a number of our arms dumps will be inspected by agreed third parties, who will report that they have done so to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
"The dumps will be re-inspected regularly to ensure that the weapons have remained silent."
David Trimble narrowly won the support of his party and devolution was restored.
On 26 June the IRA confirmed that the international inspectors had examined arms dumps.
5 December 2000
With the political process stagnating, the IRA issued a statement reiterating its May position and reviewing what it thought had happened since then.
It accused the British government of not honouring its side of the bargain.
In contrast, unionists said no guns had been destroyed and contact with the decommissioning body had been minimal.
"On May 6 in a considered statement we provided a clear and reasonable context in which this could take place.
"It cannot and will not happen on terms dictated by the British government or the unionists.
"We have not broken off contact with the IICD and we remain committed to discussions with them on the basis we have set out.
"The political responsibility for advancing the current situation clearly lies with Tony Blair who must honour all commitments.
The IRA has honoured its commitments and will continue to do so."
8 March 2001
Despite hopes of a breakthrough in January and February 2001, the parties and the governments failed to make headway on the outstanding issues of the peace process - policing reform, decommissioning and a scaling down of the British army's presence.
On the day that Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern arrived to hold all party talks, the IRA released a statement setting out its response to the "intensive negotiations" that had been taking place.
The IRA said that it blamed the British government for failing to meet its obligations on policing and criminal justice reform, human rights and equality.
But it said that it was willing to enter into "further discussions" with the decomissioning body on the basis of what it set out in its statement of 6 May 2000.
"For this engagement to be successful the British government must deliver on its obligations," said the statement.
11 April 2001
In its Easter statement, the IRA reiterated that it was committed to seeking a "permanent peace" in Ireland - but that there should be no attempts by the British government to renegotiate the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
The statement came after the IRA re-engaged with the international decommissioning body and had used the contact to set out what it saw as the basis for discussion of the arms issue.
The head of the decommissioning body, Canadian General John de Chastelain said that he believed that the contact had been made "in good faith".
31 May 2001
In its latest statement, a week before the general election, the IRA said that it had held four meetings with the arms decommissioning body - and that a third visit to arms dumps had been carried out by international independent inspectors.
The IRA said that it had honoured every statement it has ever made - and called on others to do the same.
Sinn Fein said that the continuing meetings showed how much progress had been made; unionists criticised the statement for offering no real progress.
9 August 2001
In a seven-sentence statement, the IRA confirmed that it had agreed a scheme to put arms completely and verifiably beyond use.
The statement confirmed an earlier one form the international arms decommissioning body outlining that agreement had been reached.
The statement fell short of unionists demands for evidence that decommissioning had actually begun.
But the IRA said that it noted "ongoing attempts in some quarters to prevent progress ... they should not be permitted to succeed,"
14 August 200
With the unionists having rejected the IRA statement of 9 August, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid suspended the devolved institutions for one day to trigger another six-week negotiating period.
That sparked fury among nationalists - with republicans accusing the British government of having pandered to the unionists.
Less than a week after widespread speculation that decommissioning could begin, the IRA issued a new statement, withdrawing the offer it had put before General John de Chastelain.
It said that it's offer had been "an unprecedented development which involved a very difficult decision by us and problems for our organisation."
But it went on: "The outright rejection of the IICD statement by the UUP leadership, compounded by the setting of preconditions, is totally unacceptable."
19 September 2001
Two days before the deadline for solving the political crisis, the IRA released a statement saying that it was "intensifying" its engagement with the decommissioning body.
It said that it wanted to accelerate the moves towards a "comprehensive resolution" but that depended on others playing their part, principally the British government.
Turning to the arrest of three suspected IRA members in Colombia, the statement said that it had not sent anyone there to train or militarily engage with any group.
23 October 2001
After months of stalemate, the IRA announces that it has finally begun a process of decommissioning. In a statement issued at 5pm after two days of rising expectations, the IRA says that it has undertaken this move to "save the peace process" and "to persuade others of our genuine intentions".
8 April 2002
After weeks of expectation, the IRA announces that it has put a second tranche of weapons "beyond use". It describes its action as unilateral and insists that the onus is on the British government and unionists to make the peace work.
16 July 2002
For years people had demanded that the IRA should apologise for its actions.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Bloody Friday bombings in Belfast, the IRA did that of sorts - expressing its "sincere apologies and condolences" to victims who had been "non-combatants".
"There have been fatalities amongst combatants on all sides. We also acknowledge the grief and pain of their relatives.
"The future will not be found in denying collective failures and mistakes or closing minds and hearts to the plight of those who have been hurt.
"That includes all of the victims of the conflict, combatants and non-combatants. "
30 October 2002
In the wake of the devolution crisis in early October and calls for the IRA to disband, the organisation issued a statement announcing that it was suspending talks with the decommissioning body.
"The British Government says that responsibility for this present crisis and its resolution lies with us," said the statement. "At the same time the British Government, by its own admission, has not kept its commitments."
9 January 2003
In its New Year statement, the IRA leadership said the Northern Ireland political process was "under threat".
It came against a backdrop of further talks with the province's political parties aimed at restoring devolution.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since 14 October following a row over allegations of IRA activity, including intelligence gathering at Stormont.
The IRA also accused both the British Government and unionists of trying to impose "'unacceptable and unrealistic" demands on republicans.
However, the group said it remained committed to a just and lasting peace.