The Irish Republican Army claimed Thursday it would end its 36-year campaign of armed struggle against British rule in Northern Ireland, opening the way for the restoration of devolved government in the province by January. But the public opinion is that the action will not certainly follow words.
The IRA statement, which Tony Blair hailed as historic, appeared to bring to a formal close western Europe's bloodiest civil conflict that has cost the lives of 3,600 people. It comes as the UK confronts a new threat from suspected al-Qaida bombers who this month attacked London, previously a main IRA target.
World leaders including George W. Bush, US president, praised the move.
According to Financial Times, Mr. Blair will be in contact with Republican and Unionist leaders to discuss the next steps. Within days, Peter Hain, Northern Ireland secretary, will announce plans to scale back the British security presence in the province, reducing the number of army watchtowers. IRA killers on the run may be offered an amnesty.
The SDLP urged Britain make good on commitments to remove the army from those policing stations in which it still operates and remove army watchtowers from border areas.
Changes on policing will also be key before a suspended Belfast-based assembly, set up under the Good Friday deal and in which Protestants and Catholics together ran Northern Irish affairs, gets back up and running, Reuters says.
The IRA was originally used by the Irish Volunteers in 1919 to fight for a free Irish republic in defiance of British colonial rule. When the Southern Ireland won independence in 1937, the IRA continued its battles for the reunification of the whole Irish Island.
It re-emerged in the late 1960s when tensions between republicans and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland led to riots and the stationing of British troops.
More than 3600 people were killed by the IRA from 1970 to 2005 in shootings and explosions. The IRA also devastated scores of towns and cities in Northern Ireland and England with vehicle bombs and firebombs.
After a year of peace talks, the IRA called a cease-fire in 1994, which ended two years later with a blast in London business district.
Last November, it agreed to allow a Protestant and a Catholic churchman to witness any future decommissioning of its weapons as part of proposals to restore self-rule government in Northern Ireland.
However, the plan was abandoned after the Democratic Unionist Party, the main Protestant party in the province, demanded photographic proof of decommissioning, a demand deemed "unachievable" by republicans.
Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, called on the paramilitary group in April this year to abandon armed struggle and use democratic means to resolve disputes.
Sinn Fein's remarks came after a series of setbacks for the IRA. Last year, the group was blamed for a bank robbery involving 26.5 million pounds (49.8 million US dollars) in Northern Bank, Xinhua reminds.
The IRA responded that it was giving "due consideration" to the Sinn Fein's call. And its latest peace statement has been taken by politicians and religious leaders as having the potential to ignite new hope for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
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