IRA Vows to End Violence, Join Political Battle The Irish Republican Army has announced it will end its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, and instead shift to fighting a political battle to reunite the island of Ireland. Madeleine Brand talks with Suzanne Rodgers, a reporter and columnist in Derry, Northern Ireland, about the IRA's plan.

IRA Vows to End Violence, Join Political Battle

IRA Vows to End Violence, Join Political Battle

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4775177/4775178" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Irish Republican Army has announced it will end its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, and instead shift to fighting a political battle to reunite the island of Ireland. Madeleine Brand talks with Suzanne Rodgers, a reporter and columnist in Derry, Northern Ireland, about the IRA's plan.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, security on the New York City transportation system. Is it making people feel better or worse?

But first, the Irish Republican Army is to end its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland. The announcement came in a videotaped statement earlier today.

(Soundbite of videotape)

Mr. SEANNA WALSH: All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means.

BRAND: British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave his reaction earlier today in front of reporters at Downing Street.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): I welcome the statement of the IRA that ends its campaign. I welcome its clarity. I welcome the recognition that the only route to political change lies in exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

BRAND: With us now from Derry, Northern Ireland, is reporter and columnist Suzanne Rodgers.

And welcome to the program.

Ms. SUZANNE RODGERS (Reporter; Columnist): Thank you for having me.

BRAND: Suzanne, how significant is today's statement?

Ms. RODGERS: Well, I think, Madeleine, it could hardly be more significant. It has been a long time coming. But what surprised many people is the clarity and lack of ambiguity in the statement, and that's what makes it so significant. It clearly says what the IRA intends to do. IRA volunteers have been told to stand down and cease all paramilitary and criminal activity, which is quite significant. And it also says that arms will be dumped, with verification, as you say, by an independent body and also representatives of the Protestant and Catholic Churches. It's also quite significant in that the person who gave that videotaped statement was one Seanna Walsh, who was a very close associate of Bobby Sands, the first person to die in the hunger strikes. And many people will be aware of that. He then went on to be elected as an MP--Bobby Sands did. And I think that was quite significant, too, because it showed that those factions who maybe would not have gone along with the political process in the past have now clearly come on board.

BRAND: Well, of course, we've heard these statements in the past. So how is this one different?

Ms. RODGERS: We've heard statements in the past, but they have all been steppingstones along the way, if you like. I mean, the IRA is a very big organization. It's been known to have very good internal systems, internal discipline systems. But at the same time, there was recognition from the political side, from Sinn Fein, who were the political arm, if you like, that they would have to bring along all of those doubting Republicans, the Republicans who favored the arms struggle. And it has to be said as well, you have a long history and significant history within the arms struggle of sacrifice as well.

BRAND: Now the Protestant Unionists have long doubted the IRA's sincerity on these matters. What are they saying today?

Ms. RODGERS: Well, Ian Paisley, who's the leader of the main Unionist party, the DUP, which obviously favors unity with Britain--his response, while not exactly welcoming, has not been as vitriolic as it has been in the past. Obviously, the Unionist community would like to see an IRA surrender or anything that would indicate an IRA surrender. And this statement is not a surrender. It very clearly says that the IRA volunteers will be called back to base, but it's not being disbanded. And there will still be within the Unionist community, I suppose, understandably, a need for some sort of promise and assurance that this is the end. I think the response from the DUP has been quite measured so far. We haven't had the full statement yet, but initial responses are as you would expect but maybe not as vitriolic as you would expect.

BRAND: Was the IRA's move motivated, at least in part, by the recent bombings in London and the response, the zero tolerance for terrorism?

Ms. RODGERS: I--yeah, I think it started even before that. I mean, your own 9/11 would have had a huge impact, not least because America has been such a supporter of the peace process here in Northern Ireland. And I suppose the fact of terrorism coming to America in such a dramatic and horrific way maybe turned some people's attention to other paramilitary groups, including the IRA. And the IRA have always been very aware. Sinn Fein has always been very aware of the importance of bringing American kind of political and private support with them. It's no coincidence that Martin McGuinness, for instance, is in Washington at the moment. So, yes, absolutely, that world climate against terrorism--well, people stopped seeing the point of terrorism or stopped seeing that there was any justification for it--certainly helped turn that tide.

BRAND: Reporter and columnist Suzanne Rodgers in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Thank you for joining us.

Ms. RODGERS: You're very welcome. Nice to talk to you.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.