In doing so, it followed a series of steps mapped out last week in talks between David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president.
The two sides have so far kept their sides of the bargain, which is intended to deal in tandem with the issues of devolution and decommissioning. The next step comes today when the former United States senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks, will report on the proceedings.
Tomorrow, Mr Trimble is expected to ask his party officers to call a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council at the end of the month, when he will seek endorsement for the outline deal. The differing Unionist reactions to yesterday's IRA statement prefigured the battle royal that is now expected. The Trimble camp, which had been briefed in advance on its contents, greeted it as a significant development.
Mr Trimble had indicated that he would proceed towards the formation of a new executive if the IRA appointed a go-between to the commission headed by the the Canadian General John de Chastelain. But three of Mr Trimble's MPs attacked the statement. William Ross, MP for Londonderry East, said: "There's not a whisper of decommissioning in that statement anywhere. There are a few distant pious hopes and that's about the end of it."
William Thompson, MP for Tyrone West, threatened to leave the party, saying: "I would like David Trimble to resign but he is going for broke on this. Certainly, if this is accepted it will have serious repercussions and if it goes through I won't be in the party."
Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, said: "There is no timetable, no declaration that the so-called war is over, absolutely no guarantee that decommissioning will ever happen. It doesn't give anything like the commitment Unionists need to see peace and democracy."
The IRA indicated that the go-between would be named once the new executive, alongside cross-border bodies linking North and South, had been appointed.
The statement was hailed as a highly significant move by many participants in the peace process. In Dublin the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, called on all to seize "this golden chance". There was also high praise for Mr Trimble from within the business community in Northern Ireland, whose senior members have long urged the establishment of an executive.
THE 100 WORDS THAT MAKE DISARMAMENT POSSIBLE
The IRA is committed unequivocally to the search for freedom, justice and peace in Ireland. In our view, the Good Friday Agreement is a significant development and we believe its full implementation will contribute to the achievement of lasting peace.
We acknowledge the leadership given by Sinn Fein throughout this process. The IRA is willing to further enhance the peace process and consequently, following the establishment of the institutions agreed on Good Friday last year, the IRA leadership will appoint a representative to enter into discussions with General John de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.Reuse content