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Provisional IRA: War, ceasefire, endgame?
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The entrance to an IRA arms dump
Total Deaths
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Profiles:
Bill Clinton

US President 1993 - 2001

Bill Clinton shifted Washington away from largely unerring support for London. His granting of a US visa for Gerry Adams infuriated John Major but guaranteed that Washington would have influence over Sinn Fein in the future. His unprecedented three official visits underlined the fact that he regarded Northern Ireland as his major foreign policy success.

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2000 "Arms beyond use"

Eighteen months on from the Agreement and unionists still waited for the IRA to begin decommissioning weapons before they were prepared to join the power-sharing institutions. The trouble was that republicans insisted that IRA arms could only be part of a final settlement, something they believed Northern Ireland had not yet achieved.

They had welcomed some of the most radical moves of the process to date, including the release of paramilitary prisoners, but said that more had to be done on policing and criminal justice reform. Furthermore, the IRA believed itself to be an undefeated and legitimate army; handing over arms would be regarded by many of its supporters as an act of surrender.

Then, in November 1999, the deadlock appeared to break when the unionists "jumped first" by agreeing to join the power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein and the IRA "followed" by contacting the international arms body. Despite great hopes for a new era of trust, the institutions collapsed within weeks.

The real breakthrough came on 6 May 2000 when the IRA announced that it would put arms "completely and verifiably beyond use" as part of a "full implementation" of the agreement.

It then allowed two international inspectors to inspect a number of arms dumps and power-sharing government resumed. Was this the endgame which would lead Irish republicans to consign the gun to history?

Audio
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly reports on the reaction to the IRA’s arms offer

Open Quotes
The maintenance of our cessation is our contribution to the peace process and to the creation of a future in which the causes of conflict are resolved by peaceful means.
IRA statement, 6 May 2000
Close Quotes

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