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Provisional IRA: War, ceasefire, endgame?
Intro
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Gerry Adams
IRA sign by roadside, south Armagh
Paramilitary deaths by grouping
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profiles
Profiles:
George Mitchell

Political talks chairman 1996-98

Former US senator George Mitchell played a crucial role in chairing the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement. His initial report on arms led to a twin-track negotiations policy which accepted that paramilitary groups would not decommission before talks, so weapons had to be dealt with separately.

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1998 Agreement

The IRA expected Sinn Fein to be allowed in to talks but unionists demanded to know if the ceasefire was "permanent". When the IRA ceasefire ended on 9 February 1996 with the London Docklands bomb, republicans blamed John Major for wasting the opportunity. Unionists said their fears had been justified.

Sinn Fein angrily complained that its political mandate could no longer be ignored because of its electoral gains - the party's best result since 1983.

A year later and responding to overtures from the new Labour government, the IRA reinstated its ceasefire. By the end of the years the Sinn Fein leadership was in Downing Street.

Sinn Fein's support for the eventual Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 represented a momentous shift in republican thinking. Republicanism had recognised the legitimacy of new power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland, the principle of consent and the place of arms in an overall settlement.

However, there was division among IRA members. Its first statement stated emphatically that no arms would be decommissioned. Dissidents claimed republicans had been tricked into cementing partition and broke away to form the "Real IRA". Months later it was responsible for the Omagh bomb, the worst atrocity of the Troubles which killed 29 people.

For those outside of republicanism the crucial question of decommissioning remained.

Audio
Gerry Adams at Downing Street, 1997: "This was a journey that had taken Irish republicans 75 years to make"
The BBC’s Denis Murray: "Agreement, the impossible was done"

Open Quotes
Viewed against our republican objective, or any democratic analysis, this document clearly falls short of presenting a solid basis for a lasting settlement ... Let us make it clear there will be no decommissioning by the IRA.
IRA statement, April 30 1998
Close Quotes

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