The official wing of the IRA in Northern Ireland announced a ceasefire, reserving the right of self-defence against attacks by the British Army and sectarian groups. However the Provisional IRA dismissed the truce as having “little effect” on the situation.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, William Whitelaw, welcomed the move and a spokesperson said it was “a step in the right direction”.
A statement was read out from Dublin after a meeting of the executive of the Northern Republican Clubs, a political movement allied to the IRA.
It said: “The overwhelming desire of the great majority of all the people of the north is for an end to military actions by all sides.”
It went on to say that a suspension of activities would be a chance to prevent all-out civil war in Ulster.
The group insisted it would continue a campaign of civil disobedience and the political struggle until its demands were met – namely:
- the release of all internees,
- an amnesty for political prisoners in British and Irish jails,
- the withdrawal of British troops from the streets of Northern Ireland,
- the abolition of the Special Powers Act
- and a declaration of freedom of political expression.
The RUC and British Army weree the first to benefit from such a ceasefire as they had been the main targets of the IRA.
Residents of Belfast in particular were worn down by the four-year campaign of violence and this news was very welcome there.
And Father Hugh O’Neill who led a Derry peace movement said: “Please God, everyone will now sit down and begin to talk.”