Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Sunday, 11 October 2009 17:14 UK

'Armed struggle is over' - INLA

IRSP member reads out statement
An Irish Republican Socialist Party member read out the statement

An Irish republican paramilitary group responsible for dozens of murders during Northern Ireland's Troubles has renounced violence.

The Irish National Liberation Army said its "armed struggle is over".

The INLA said it would pursue its objectives from now on by "exclusively peaceful political struggle".

Its statement did not mention weapons decommissioning, but it is understood talks have begun and the government hopes the process will begin in months.

A small group which proved itself to be ruthless during the Troubles, it has been on ceasefire for 11 years.

The statement was issued through its political wing, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, at an event in Bray, County Wicklow on Sunday.

"The republican socialist movement has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate, consultation and analysis, it has concluded that the armed struggle is over," it said.

INLA KILLINGS 1975 - 2001
Scene of Droppin' Well bombing
42 civilians
46 UK security forces
16 republican paramilitaries
Seven loyalist paramilitary
Two Irish security forces
Total: 113
Republican figures includes 10 INLA members killed in feuds
*Source: CAIN Troubles archive

"The objective of a 32-county socialist republic will be best achieved through exclusively peaceful political struggle."

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said he welcomed the INLA's statement but "it is essential that words are matched to deeds".

Mr Woodward urged the INLA to destroy its weapons before the deadline in February when the decommissioning body is due to be wound up.

Established in 1975, many of its recruits were former members of the Official IRA.

They murdered Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Airey Neave in 1979 by leaving a bomb under his car at Westminster.

The organisation was also responsible for one of Northern Ireland's worst atrocities.

In 1982 it killed 17 people in a bomb attack on the Droppin' Well pub in Ballykelly, County Londonderry.

The INLA also murdered loyalist LVF leader Billy Wright at the Maze prison.

Three members of the INLA died in the jail while on hunger strike in the 1980s.

Despite being on ceasefire since 1998, it has carried out a number of shootings and engaged in a wide range of criminal activity.

INLA member pictured at republican parade in 2007
The INLA was mainly involved in organised crime in recent years

The group has regularly indulged in bouts of bloody infighting.

In February this year, the INLA claimed responsibility for the murder of a drug dealer in Londonderry.

It is mainly involved in organised crime, such as extortion and robbery.

Last year police investigating the INLA and associates in County Londonderry seized controlled drugs with an estimated value of £10,000.

The INLA has been talking to intermediaries representing the British and Irish governments for several months.

The group is also believed to be engaged in talks with the head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, General John de Chastelain about putting its weapons beyond use.



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