Statement by Bertie Ahern on the Decommissioning of IRA Weapons, 26 September 2005
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Statement by Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), on the Decommissioning of IRA Weapons, 26 September 2005
"Today is a momentous day for the people of this island, North and South. Finally, after many false starts, the IRA yielded to their will, as expressed in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. They have given up their weapons to pursue their aims by exclusively peaceful means.
I have worked unstintingly for this outcome for the past seven years to fulfil the mandate that the people gave me in that referendum, to secure a permanent peace on this island. In spite of the many setbacks and disappointments, I have continued to purse that goal because, as a Constitutional Republican, I was convinced that it was the only way to achieve a final resolution to the Northern conflict.
The Irish and British Governments have today received the report from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. This report confirms that the Commission has overseen the completion of IRA decommissioning. It is the Commission’s assessment that the IRA has now placed the totality of its arsenal beyond use.
I would like to acknowledge all those who have helped to bring this about. We have heard from General De Chastelain and from the independent witnesses, Reverend Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid. These are men of integrity. Their words are clear. And they are very welcome. I would like to thank the General and his team, and the independent witnesses, for the work they have done.
It required not only integrity. It also required personal courage. They have done the people of this island a great service.
Very large quantities of weapons have been put beyond use. In the most recent decommissioning event these included ammunition, rifles, machine guns, mortars, missiles, handguns, explosives, explosive substances and other arms.
The IICD’s statement that the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use is of enormous consequence. It is a landmark development. It is of real historic significance. The weapons of the IRA are gone. And they are gone in a manner which has been witnessed and verified.
Many believed that this day would never come. And many would say that it should have happened a long time ago. But it has now come about. And we are enormously relieved that we can finally close this difficult chapter of the peace process.
Many people have suffered at the hands of these weapons. This suffering should never have happened. If today’s developments mean anything they mean that no future generations will suffer this pain and loss. We cannot forget our sad and tragic past. We cannot undo damage done. But we must now also look forward with renewed hope and promise. In particular we must look to the day when loyalist weapons are removed from the equation.
We have a duty to work now to build a better Ireland. An Ireland that is a warm home for everybody who lives here. I promise that the Irish Government will uphold the Good Friday Agreement. We want to see its full implementation. There is no going back to the bad old days. The Good Friday Agreement has delivered peace.
I understand the fears and uncertainties of the Unionist community. I understand that trust needs to be rebuilt. I know they may need time to reflect. But I urge them not to under-estimate the importance of today’s developments.
The next report of the Independent Monitoring Commission will be published in October. I hope that this will confirm that IRA paramilitary and criminal activity has ended. This will also help boost confidence and trust.
I call on everybody to now seize the opportunity that is opening in front of us to build a better Ireland for all its people."
26th September 2005
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