New York Times:
The Irish Republican Army has given up its armed struggle for a united Ireland, agreeing to turn solely to political methods, an American businessman said yesterday after being briefed on a statement expected from the guerrilla group later this week.
The agreement, if borne out, would be a historic turning point in the violent history of Ireland and Northern Ireland. But there is still widespread official skepticism about I.R.A. promises, particularly when it comes to the issue of disarmament.
Indeed, it was not immediately clear whether the I.R.A. would address how several tons of arms, hidden in bunkers across Ireland, would be disposed of, according to the businessman, Niall O'Dowd, who brokered talks between the I.R.A. and American officials that helped lead to a cease-fire in 1994. The continued existence of those weapons, which were to have been destroyed under an agreement reached after the cease-fire, contributed to the collapse of the Northern Ireland government in 2003.
Last night, an Irish government spokesman said an I.R.A. commitment to nonviolence had to be backed by an unambiguous process for disposing of all its weapons. 'The ultimate test is the delivery on that,' said the spokesman, who as a matter of routine practice spoke only on the condition that he not be identified. A spokesman for the British government declined comment.
It is wise to remember that this conflict was once considered unsolvable. That should give us hope for the other 'unsolvable' problems, such as Palestine.
I don't know enough to say whether the I.R.A. will get rid of it's weapons at this time. Whether it does so immediately or in the future it is clear that the popularity of a violent struggle has waned and peaceful solutions are being persued. Old habits, and old hatred, are never easily or quickly settled. The progress in Ireland is very hopeful though.