I absolutely welcome the IRA's statement. It is historic and unprecedented. I use these words not as some sort of catchphrase but because they are the best way to describe today's events. The cynics try to claim that they have "heard it all before", but this is simply not the case. At 4pm today "The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign". These are words that have not been heard before and people would do well to recognise and acknowledge their significance.
But now is not a time to reflect on achievements or rue past mistakes. As the Phil Coulter song goes
Whats won is won. And whats done is done and what's lost is lost and gone forever.
The song goes on to mention a "bright new day". It is responsibility of those on all sides to make sure that the bright new day is not merely an aspiration but a reality. The IRA have done all that was asked of them. They have answered Gerry Adams' call with clarity, courage and precision. For so long Unionism has used the IRA as an excuse to weasel out of their commitments to equality and power sharing. NO excuse exists anymore and rejectionist Unionism must NOT be indulged any more.
Republicans have acted in good faith and this statement must be responded to in kind. Chris has outlined many of the most important issues. Demiliterisation MUST become a reality. The Irish government also has a responsibility to make sure that we here in the north can play the fullest part possible in the affairs of the nation.
As far as devolution is concerned, a power sharing executive is still my favoured option. Republicans are willing to share power tomorrow but if Unionism is still to be found wanting then other avenue such as joint authority should be explored.
There will be interesting times ahead and I hope and pray that they will be better times.