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18 years ago: Northern Ireland as the IRA ceasefire began

The Troubles were far from over on 1 September 1994, but for the first time in many decades, the people of Northern Ireland seemed optimistic about peace.
Sep 1st 2012, 7:30 AM 13,613 43

ON THE FIRST day of September in 1994, the Irish Republican Army set down its arms, stating it favoured peace talks instead of warfare.

Although previous IRA ceasefires had dissolved in waves of violence, this one was labelled a historic moment for the island of Ireland as it came in the midst of intensive political talks which included Sinn Féin, referred to as the political arm of the Republican movement, for the first time.

Although it was only a cautious optimism, 18 years ago today many in Belfast rejoiced. Crowds gathered on the streets, flags were waved and car horns tooted. However, Sinn Féin leader warned that the struggle was not over but merely entering a “new phase”.

The announcement was first made through RTÉ on 31 August after a cassette message and statement were issued to reporter Charlie Bird by an intermediary.

That IRA statement in full:

Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic process and underlying our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight, 31 August, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly.

At this crossroads the leadership of the IRA salutes and commends our volunteers, other activists, our supporters and the political prisoners who have sustained the struggle against all odds for the past 25 years. Your courage, determination and sacrifice have demonstrated that the freedom and the desire for peace based on a just and lasting settlement cannot be crushed. We remember all those who have died for Irish freedom and we reiterate our commitment to our republican objectives. Our struggle has seen many gains and advances made by nationalists and for the democratic position.

We believe that an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement has been created. We are therefore entering into a new situation in a spirit of determination and confidence, determined that the injustices which created this conflict will be removed and confident in the strength and justice of our struggle to achieve this.

We note that the Downing Street Declaration is not a solution, nor was it presented as such by its authors. A solution will only be found as a result of inclusive negotiations. Others, not the least the British government have a duty to face up to their responsibilities. It is our desire to significantly contribute to the creation of a climate which will encourage this. We urge everyone to approach this new situation with energy, determination and patience.

The ceasefire was broken 17 months later when two people were killed in a bomb explosion in the docklands area of London. The IRA admitted responsibility and was universally condemned.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed two years later.

Related: “Charlie Bird, RTÉ News”: 29 pictures that sum up the intrepid Mr Bird>

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In Pictures: Martin McGuinness meets and shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth II>

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Sinead O'Carroll


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