On the tenth anniversary of the ceasefire announcement by the Provisional IRA in 1994, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that the cessation ‘gave birth to enormous hope and expectation for the future’, but warned that such hope had not been fulfilled.
The IRA ceasefire broke down in 1996 following what were perceived to be acts of bad faith by the then British Prime Minister, John Major, but was reinstated the following year.
In 1998, lengthy negotiations led to the signing of the breakthrough Good Friday Agreement, which has since become mired in disputes over continuing British bad faith and the failure of the IRA to disband.
Mr Adams said today that the IRA ceasefire gave significant impetus to the then embryonic peace process.
“The length of the IRA cessations, its discipline in the face of ongoing British military and loyalist activities, and its initiatives to sustain the current process, show that it is genuinely interested in building the peace process.
“Ten years on and the peace process amounts to no more than the cessations, with many question marks over the loyalist cessations.
“The political institutions have been in suspension for well over a year and a half. The Good Friday Agreement has been breached repeatedly by the British government and much of the essential aspects of that agreement, on human rights and equality, on policing and justice matters and demilitarisation, have not been implemented.”
Talks continue tomorrow as the marathon peace process, effectively launched by the IRA ceasefire, seeks a way forward after years of setbacks. The talks face major difficulties, not least because the dominant unionist DUP is still refusing to engage in direct talks with Sinn Féin.
Mr Adams said, however, that there had been “progress” in the past ten years, “and much good work has been done”.
“Although progress has been too slow it has to be built upon,” he said. “Therefore as we mark the 10th anniversary of the IRA cessation there is a heavy onus on all of the political parties, though especially Sinn Féin and the DUP, and on the two governments, but particularly the British government, to agree measures within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement that can bring all outstanding issues to a definitive and conclusive closure.
“Not an easy task. But one nonetheless that those of us who want progress must bend our will to in the time ahead.”
Representatives from both the Irish and British governments and the North’s political parties are set for talks tomorrow in Belfast. They will resume again in southern England in mid-September, whebn they will be joined the Irish Taoiseach and British Prime Minister
Today, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, described the IRA ceasefire as a “blessing” that had saved many lives.
Mr Ahern said the Provisional IRA’s ceasefire allowed the space for politicians and community leaders from across the sectarian divide to set the peace process in motion.
“But the peace we enjoy today is an incomplete one,” he said. “It is incomplete because both communities remain divided in many interface areas and towns in Northern Ireland, bringing with it sectarian tensions, the dislocation of families and violence.
“There is a particular obligation on political leaders to show the way to a Northern Ireland that has replaced suspicion and hostility with trust and dialogue and violence, or the threat of violence, with the rule of law.
Mr Ahern insisted that he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair remain committed to bring about the full implementation of the Agreement through the re-establishment of the institutions.
Mr Ahern said their primary objectives should be ending all forms of paramilitary activity and to see the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons “to an early timetable and on a convincing basis”.
He also called for a commitment to stable partnership government and for Sinn Féin to “accept and support policing and to set the context for devolving policing and justice”.
* A number of bomb alerts in Belfast today were blamed on breakaway republican militants marking the anniversary in their own way. Devices placed on the M1 motorway, at Belfast City hall and the Park Avenue hotel were later declared hoaxes.