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Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein President
"We're really interested in this process"
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The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Belfast
"The IRA wil identify a number of international arms dumps"
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The BBC's David Eades
"This marks a radical and daring shift for the IRA"
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Saturday, 6 May, 2000, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Mixed reaction to IRA offer
The IRA has not promised to hand over weapons
The IRA's announcement that it is prepared to put its weapons beyond use has received a mixed reaction ranging from enthusiasm to contempt.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern welcomed the IRA's statement.

The gun has been taken out of Irish politics forever

John Hume
SDLP leader
But Northern Ireland politicians were divided about the significance of Saturday's statement.

David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, gave the statement a cautious welcome.

Speaking outside a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Assembly Group at Stormont he said he felt the statement was very interesting and clearly broke new ground.

"There are some quite positive elements in it," Mr Trimble said.

But he said there were areas which still needed clarification, particularly about the ways of ensuring weapons remained secure.

David Trimble
David Trimble: Some very positive elements
He said over the course of the next few days he would continue to "tease out" the meaning of the statement before coming to a conclusion and considering what the position of the party would be.

However, hardline Ulster Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson said the latest IRA statement should not change party policy.

The MP for Lagan Valley criticised the IRA's offer to put its arms "beyond use".

He said: "The IRA statement is not disarmament and not decommissioning. It should not lead to any change in Ulster Unionist Party policy.

"We should not go back into government when not one single bullet has been handed in."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the IRA had made an emotional and painful step.

Mr Adams said: "I know there have been some who have been sceptical about whether republicans, the IRA in particular, were really interested in this process.

"I think today's statement shows that they are.

"The IRA doesn't have to do this. It is only doing this to try and give some assurance to those who are nervous or who are genuinely concerned.

"The IRA is not just stretching itself. It is actually overstretching itself to try to bring about the restoration of the peace process."

Jump forward

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said he felt the IRA's announcement was a jump forward rather than just a step.

"For the first time we have heard directly from the IRA not Sinn Fein that henceforward they are going to adopt peaceful means in seeking their political objectives" he said.

Mr Mandelson said he hoped other paramilitaries would now follow the IRA's lead.

SDLP leader John Hume, who was instrumental in getting the peace process under way by holding talks with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, said the statement was "very positive".

Mr Hume said: "I think it is making very clear that the gun has been taken out of Irish politics for ever."

"The most significant part [of the statement] is that they are going to put their guns beyond use, and they are going to have that verified."

'Clarity given'

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he believed the IRA's statement gave the clarity needed to progress.

Bertie Ahern: Confidence building measure
Bertie Ahern: Confidence building measure
"I think it has all the clarity that people have looked for this past 12 months. Of course there are lots of other issues in the peace process, which we have to continue to build on and build confidence on," Mr Ahern said.

He added that he believed the "argument about decommissioning and devolution" which brought the power-sharing executive down had "been adequately and satisfactorily dealt with".

But the deputy leader of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party Peter Robinson said that to legally satisfy the requirement for decommissioning, the IRA's guns must actually be destroyed.

He said his party would step up their campaign against the agreement.

And Mr Robinson accused the governments of trying to change the agreement without consulting the people who voted for it.

Ulster Democratic Party leader Gary McMichael, whose party represents loyalist paramilitaries the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters, responded cautiously to the IRA statement.

"I note that it has not made any reference to the removal of the option of force, merely that its weapons are secure," he said.

David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party which supports the Good Friday Agreement but dislikes too many concessions to republicans, said the statement gave him grounds for optimism.

"We've got an opportunity here at our fingertips that we dare not throw away," he said.

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See also:

06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
IRA arms offer
06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
IRA statement in full
06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Governments outline agreement timetable
06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
The arms inspectors
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