The IRA's ruling Army Council which once directed its campaign of violence is no longer operational, a major report revealed today.
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) declared that the IRA has disbanded its terrorist structures and relinquished the leadership necessary to wage war.
The watchdog's declaration today that the IRA campaign is "well and truly over" comes ahead of crucial talks between unionists and republicans aimed at securing the future of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government.
Prior to the report's publication, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson said his party would demand complete removal of the IRA's Army Council to secure political progress.
Today the IMC 12-page report said: "We are aware of the questions posed about the public disbandment of (Provisional Irish Republican Army's) PIRA's leadership structures.
"We believe that PIRA has chosen another method of bringing what it describes as its armed struggle to a final close.
"Under PIRA's own rules the Army Council was the body that directed its military campaign.
"Now that that campaign is well and truly over, the Army Council by deliberate choice is no longer operational or functional."
It added: "This situation has been brought about by a conscious decision to let it fall into disuse rather than through any other mechanism."
The report concluded: "The mechanism which they have chosen to bring the armed conflict to a complete end has been the standing down of the structures which engaged in the armed campaign and the conscious decision to allow the Army Council to fall into disuse.
"By taking these steps PIRA has completely relinquished the leadership and other structures appropriate to a time of armed conflict."
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said the report confirmed that the IRA had ceased to function.
"This groundbreaking report by the IMC makes clear that the Army Council is now redundant," he said.
He added: "I urge people to read the report very carefully.
"As the IMC made clear, 'the leadership structures have definitely ceased to function in the way they did during the time of conflict'.
"Today's report confirms this has happened."
Mr Woodward added: "PIRA has met its commitment.
"It has abandoned all terrorist structures, its recruitment and PIRA's so-called 'military' departments have ceased to function and have been disbanded."
The British and Irish Governments had asked the IMC, made up of security experts and politicians from the UK and Ireland, to compile a special report on the status of IRA structures.
Prior to the official release of the report today, it was speculated that the IMC would conclude that the Army Council remained in place, but was not engaged in any illegal activity.
Today in its report the IMC, which monitors paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, said the IRA's redundant structures were gradually disappearing, but said it did not expect any announcements from the republican movement as that process concluded.
"We believe that for some time now it has given up what it used to do and that by design it is being allowed to wither away," said the report.
"There have not been and we do not foresee that there will be formal announcements about the disbandment of all or parts of the structure."
It added: "In our view the way in which the leadership has adopted an entirely different course, disbanded terrorist-related structures and capacity and engaged in different activities, and members have moved on to other things, means that the PIRA of the recent and violent past is well beyond recall."Reuse content