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1994: IRA declares 'complete' ceasefire
The IRA has announced a ceasefire after a quarter of a century of what it called its "armed struggle" to get the British out of Northern Ireland.

The statement came just after 1100 BST and said there would be a "complete cessation of military operations" from midnight tonight and that the terrorist organisation was willing to enter into inclusive talks on the political future of the Province.

The statement has raised hopes for peace and an end to 25 years of bombing and shooting that has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people.

There is scepticism from the loyalist community and celebration in the Catholic areas of Belfast and Londonderry.

The Irish Foreign Minister, Dick Spring, said the statement was historic and met his government's demand for an unconditional end to IRA violence.

We are beyond the beginning but we are not yet in sight of the end
John Major, British Prime Minister
The Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, called on loyalist paramilitaries to follow suit.

But loyalists are suspicious of the declaration and fear it may lead to a sell-out in which Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom is under threat.

The Ulster Unionist MP James Molyneaux said no moves towards talks should begin until the IRA had added the word "permanent" to the ceasefire declaration.

The announcement comes 18 months after secret talks began between the British Government and republicans.

It led to the Anglo-Irish Downing Street Declaration in December 1993 which stated that any change in the partition of Ireland could only come with the consent of those living north of the border. It also challenged republicans to renounce violence.

SDLP leader John Hume MP, who has been negotiating with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, was "very pleased".

But the British Prime Minister John Major was cautious in his reaction to the IRA announcement. "We are beyond the beginning," he said, "but we are not yet in sight of the end."

Ian Paisley, leader of the hard-line Democratic Unionists, rejected the wording of the declaration and said it was an "insult to the people [the IRA] has slaughtered because there was no expression of regret".

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In Context
Seven weeks later, on 13 October the loyalist terrorist groups announced their own ceasefire. On 9 December, British officials met Sinn Fein representatives for their first formal talks in 22 years.

But the IRA ceasefire ended on 9 February, 1996 when it planted a huge bomb in London's Docklands. It killed two, injured more than 100 and caused more than 85m of damage.

A new ceasefire was finally announced in July 1997.

The future of the IRA's weaponry was been one of the dominant and unresolved issues of the peace process.

Republicans have argued that the arms can only be dealt with as part of a solution that leads to "all the guns being removed from Irish politics" - giving equal weight to IRA weapons and the presence of the British military.

In May 2000, as part of a comprehensive deal to kick-start the stalled Northern Ireland Assembly, the IRA issued a statement offering to take part in a process in which its arms would be placed "completely and verifiably beyond use", providing that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full.

But the issue of decommissioning remained the major stumbling block in talks between all parties seeking to restore devolution after the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended in October 2002.

On 28 July 2005 the IRA announced an end to its armed campaign and in May 2007 devolved government was restored to Northern Ireland.

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