.- The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland meeting yesterday in Maynooth, on the eve of the September General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement of complete decommissioning on the part of the IRA by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) and the two independent witnesses, Rev Harold Good and Fr. Alec Reid.
"We welcome the confirmation by the IICD and the two independent Church witnesses that the IRA has honored the commitments set out in its statement of 28th July 2005. This represents an immensely significant confidence-building measure in favor of a more peaceful and stable society in Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement is a vindication of the efforts undertaken by all those who have, over the years, courageously worked to replace violence with dialogue.
"We hope that all who exercise leadership will continue to affirm the political process as the means to resolve any remaining issues in the search for peace. We call on all other paramilitary groups to affirm their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
"While we acknowledge today’s long awaited achievement, we are mindful of all those who have suffered as a result of violence, and we keep them in our prayers."
The Bishops announcement comes after a long awaited decision from the IRA, on July 28 2005 to end the armed struggle. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was founded in 1916, with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the IRA became the stronghold of intransigent opposition to Ireland's dominion status and to the separation of Northern Ireland.
In 1994 hopes for peace were raised when the IRA declared a cease-fire. Its legal political arm (Sinn Féin) began participating in talks with Britain in 1995.Following the IRA's announcement of a new cease-fire in July, 1997. Talks that convened in September of that year and resulted in an accord (Apr., 1998) that provided for a new Northern Ireland Assembly comprised of Protestants and Catholics, and greater cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the Good Friday agreement was signed subsequently.