The Irish Republican Army has again announced an end to its armed campaign against British rule in an effort to revive Northern Ireland's peace process.
The IRA announced recently that all of its units have been ordered to place their weapons in arms dumps, ending its 30-year campaign of violence.
In a DVD released to reporters, IRA spokesperson Seana Walsh said there is an "alternative way" to achieve its goal of a united, independent Ireland, "All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means," she said.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the IRA's announcement as a "step of unparalleled magnitude" in the recent history of Northern Ireland. "This may be the day when finally after all the false dawns and dashed hope, peace replaced war, politics replaces terror on the island of Ireland."
The White House also welcomed the announcement, adding that it must be followed by actions demonstrating the IRA's unequivocal commitment to the rule of law.
The IRA said it would work with an independent arms decommissioning body to verify it had put its weapons beyond use. But the announcement did not say the IRA would disband. Nor did it pledge to end criminal activity.
Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, called the announcement a courageous and confident initiative that will help revive the peace process.
Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness was in the United States this week to brief Washington about the IRA's decision. ”In the context of the heightened expectations that there are, when others had given up, we never gave in," he said. "We continued to work to get a positive result."
The IRA has been blamed for around 1,800 deaths since the early 1970s.