IRA ceasefire anniversary: How the events unfolded 20 years ago

A section of the attendance at the Sinn Fein offices at Rathmor, Creggan during Sunday's 20th anniversary of the Provisional IRA Ceasefire. DER3514MC155
A section of the attendance at the Sinn Fein offices at Rathmor, Creggan during Sunday's 20th anniversary of the Provisional IRA Ceasefire. DER3514MC155
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On 6 April 1994 The Provisional IRA announced a three-day Ceasefire or “Temporary Cessation of Hostilities” to run from Wednesday 6 April – Friday 8 April 1994.

In August 1994 the IRA released a statement saying it was prepared to end its campaign of violence to allow the development of a democratic process in the North.

Albert Reynolds, the Irish Taoiseach, said that he accepted the IRA statement as implying a permanent ceasefire. Many unionists were sceptical. UUP leader James Molyneaux, in a rare slip, declared “This (the ceasefire) is the worst thing that has ever happened to us.”

Below is the statement in which the IRA laid out its rationale for ending its campaign which had run for almost 25 years at that point.

Irish Republican Army (IRA) Ceasefire Statement, 31 August 1994

“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, August 31, 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.”

However, by February of 1996 following the apparent growing frustration within the republican movement came to a head when the IRA detonated an estimated 500kg bomb in the heart of London. Although the IRA had sent warnings 90 minutes beforehand, two people were killed and the bomb caused an estimated £100 million worth of damage.

In a statement on the day of the bombing, February 9, the IRA said: “It is with great reluctance that the leadership of the IRA announces that the complete cessation of military operations will end at 6pm on February 9.

“As we stated on August 31, 1994, the basis for the cessation was to enhance the democratic peace process and to underline our definitive commitment to its success.

“We also made it clear that we believed that an opportunity to create a just and lasting settlement had been created.

“The cessation presented an historic challenge for everyone and the IRA commends the leaderships of nationalist Ireland at home and abroad. They rose to the challenge. The British Prime Minister did not.

“Instead of embracing the peace process, the British government acted in bad faith with Mr Major and the Unionist leaders squandering this unprecedented opportunity to resolve the conflict.

“Time and again, over the last 18 months, selfish party political and sectional interests in the London parliament have been placed before the rights of the people of Ireland.

“We take this opportunity to re-iterate our total commitment to our republican objectives.

“The resolution of the conflict in our country demands justice. It demands an inclusive negotiated settlement. That is not possible unless and until the British government faces up to its responsibilities.

“The blame for the failure thus far of the Irish peace process lies squarely with John Major and his government.”

P O’Neill

IRA attacks continued throughout the firsty half of 1997 until political progress again seemed to persuade the republican movement that the use of violence could be stopped permanently.

In July 1997, the initial ceasefire of 1994 was restored. In another statement, the IRA said: “On August 31, 1994 the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann (IRA) announced their complete cessation of military operations as our contribution to the search for lasting peace.

“After 17 months of cessation in which the British government and the unionists blocked any possibility of real or inclusive negotiations, we reluctantly abandoned the cessation.

“The IRA is committed to ending British rule in Ireland. It is the root cause of divisions and conflict in our country. We want a permanent peace and therefore we are prepared to enhance the search for a democratic peace settlement through real and inclusive negotiations.

“So having assessed the current political situation, the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann are announcing a complete cessation of military operations from 12 midday on Sunday 20 July, 1997.

“We have ordered the unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire of August 1994. All IRA units have been instructed accordingly.”