Excerpts from an appeal by Catholic politician John Hume, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, for the Irish Republican Army to begin disarming:
We have now entered a critical period in the political process. The word crisis has often been used to describe the roller coaster of events which have tried the patience and tested the nerves of everyone involved.
Now we face perhaps the greatest crisis since the process began, with the very real threat of suspension of the institutions, the committees, the north-south bodies.
Over the last 10 years we have achieved an incredible amount of progress. From the darkest days of the Troubles emerged a growing hunger for peace in the hearts of our people. That hunger was transformed into action, with staggering results.
Ten years ago, would it have seemed likely that the leaders of the republican movement would have committed themselves to exclusively peaceful and democratic means and be taking part in an inclusive executive? Who could have envisioned how well that executive would be working? ...
The republican movement has shown itself to be committed to the peace process through its cease-fire and its maintenance. The silence of its weapons, as the IRA pointed out last week, demonstrates that. However, the Ulster Unionist Party feels that by setting up the institutions, as it agreed to do during the Mitchell review, expectations of greater progress on decommissioning had been created. That is why another voluntary act by the IRA could transform the situation and allow us to continue to grow as a society and as a people.
I have on a number of occasions suggested that such a gesture should take place. There are many different ways in which it could be done, but I believe that if the IRA were to arrange with (disarmament commission head) General de Chastelain that an amount of Semtex (explosive) was to be left in a certain location, the current difficulties could be swiftly overcome.
There are terrible choices for all of us to make if the agreement falls. This is a very historic time. For the very first time in our history the will of the Irish people as to how they share the island of Ireland has been established and made clear in joint referenda. It took immense effort by two governments, the U.S. president, all the political parties on this island and the massive support of the people of Ireland to achieve this prize. I now appeal to the IRA to show their deep respect for the will of the Irish people. I ask them to demonstrate for all to see their patriotism and desire to move the situation forward by strengthening the peace process through beginning voluntarily the process of decommissioning.