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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Adams urges IRA action over arms
Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams: "It is time to settle our differences"
A first move from the IRA to begin decommissioning is believed to be imminent after a statement from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams that he had recommended a "ground-breaking" step on the arms issue.

Security sources believe an IRA move on weapons may come very soon and are not ruling out developments within the next day or two.

The Sinn Fein leader's speech on Monday evening came as speculation intensified that the IRA would move on decommissioning to save the power-sharing government at Stormont.

It faces suspension later this week when the resignation of five unionist ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive becomes irrevocable.

They quit the executive because of the IRA's refusal to give up weapons.


I appeal to the leaders of unionism to join with us in doing that so that all sections of our people can go forward on the basis of equality

Gerry Adams

Mr Adams' use of the word ground-breaking appears to suggest that some form of decommissioning will happen shortly.

In his speech to republicans in Belfast, Mr Adams appealed to all of the pro-Agreement parties and the two governments to work together to ensure that crisis politics became a thing of the past.

And referring particularly to unionists, Mr Adams said: "Our collective responsibility at this time is to settle our differences.

"I appeal to the leaders of unionism to join with us in doing that so that all sections of our people can go forward on the basis of equality."

He added: "I would particularly appeal to the IRA and their families, and to the IRA support base, to stay together in comradeship."

'Promising'

Secretary of State John Reid said it was a "highly significant" statement coming from someone of Gerry Adams' authority and stature within republicanism.

"Like everyone I hope that the IRA will accept the view that a ground-breaking move on the arms issue will transform the political situation," he said.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said the peace process was now entering a crucial phase.

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said: "It offers the hope that maybe we have at last the possibility of breaking the impasse that has thus far frustrated the achievement of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."

The BBC's Ireland correspondent, Denis Murray, said: "I do not remember an occasion when Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams who are clearly the figureheads of the republican movement, not just Sinn Fein, said they had gone to the IRA and been given a refusal."

Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid: Called for move on arms
Former Ulster Unionist minister Michael McGimpsey said: "There are promising parts in this statement and it may well be heralding other steps."

DUP leader Ian Paisley said if decommissioning did begin, unionists would need to see it for themselves.

SDLP leader-designate Mark Durkan said he hoped whatever confidence underpinned the Sinn Fein statement was translated into "significant movement".

The chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said it was "very significant" that the two most prominent members of Sinn Fein would make this public declaration.

"I don't think they would make such a call unless they expected action and action will follow pretty soon and that's the significance," he said.

Earlier on Monday, in another part of a carefully constructed sequence of events, Dr Reid, said the government's response would not be "grudging or ungenerous" to real and actual decommissioning of weapons.


I do not underestimate the difficulties for paramilitary groups in resolving the issue of arms

Dr John Reid

Dr Reid issued an appeal to republican and loyalist groups on Monday to put their arms beyond use, to move the province into a new era.

Speaking in Belfast on Monday, Dr Reid said that the "common ground" created recently now needed to be built upon.

Generous

"I do not underestimate the difficulties for paramilitary groups in resolving the issue of arms," he said.

"So I want to say to the paramilitaries: If you are able to do what the people of Northern Ireland want so desperately - to put arms beyond use and to take politics on to a new plane - then I believe you will not find the response from this government, from the Irish Government, the American administration and the whole international community to be grudging or ungenerous."

Republicans have been negotiating on guarantees over the stability of devolved government, more concessions on policing, and the scaling down of army bases in republican heartlands.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"The Sinn Fein president asked the republican grassroots to think strategically"
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
"Everyone committed to a new future should play their part"
Jonathan Moore, Northern Ireland expert
"The mood is now right"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

22 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Parties call for action on arms
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
SF link to Colombia arrest man
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Talks intensify as deadline nears
20 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Will IRA move soon on arms?
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
NI holds its breath
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