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Provisional IRA: War, ceasefire, endgame?
Intro
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Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president
Responsibility for deaths
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Profiles:
Tony Blair

UK Prime Minister 1997

Tony Blair quickly told Sinn Fein that a restored IRA ceasefire would admit it to talks. Sinn Fein’s invitation to Downing Street in 1997 was the first time republican leaders had met a British prime minister since Michael Collins in 1921. The meeting helped cement the new shape of politics in Northern Ireland.

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2001 Endgame or stalemate?

By the summer of 2001 the atmosphere had soured. The full implementation of the Agreement had yet to happen.

Republicans and nationalists were unhappy with policing and security reform while unionists were increasingly convinced that republicans would always keep the gun ready in the closet.

Sinn Fein said that the removal of all guns from Ireland (including British guns) would follow if the "causes of the conflict" were removed.

However, this remained far too ambiguous for many unionists and the institutions again headed for the buffers. When the decommissioning body revealed that the IRA had offered to dispose of arms in a way that satisfied its requirements, Sinn Fein hailed it as historic.

It did not prove enough for unionists and the subsequent Assembly suspension prompted the IRA to withdraw the offer. Then, all of a sudden in October, there was movement.

Mr Adams's declaration that he and Martin McGuinness had urged the IRA to make a "groundbreaking move" came in the wake of the September 11 terrorist strikes in America.

Following the September 11 attacks, Sinn Fein sought to underline that modern republicanism was truly committed to peaceful means, arguing that IRA guns were silent while loyalists had broken ceasefires.

Then, the day after Gerry Adams called on the IRA to make a "ground-breaking move", it did just that - and began a process of disposing of arms.

No details were made public but the IRA underlined that this was not only its contribution to saving the peace process but a gesture to persuade others of its genuine intentions. Would it prove enough?

When the Agreement was signed in 1998, people asked "is the war over?". Three years later, those who had watched the transformation of republican strategy from a guerrilla army to a slick political machine hoped that it was.

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