IRA Ceasefire: Joy and anger at historic move: Leaders of political and religious groups have given a mixed but often passionate response to yesterday's announcement

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The Independent Online
JUBILATION, relief, wary optimism, scepticism, disbelief and anger - the IRA's historic ceasefire provoked a predictably wide spectrum of reaction yesterday.

The Ulster Unionist leader James Molyneaux urged Mr Major not to accept the statement because it did not go far enough. Mr Major had 'no option' but to reject the IRA statement until it agreed the halt was permanent.

'He cannot accept it anyway because his declaration actually included that word, deliberately included that word,' he said. The IRA, Mr Molyneaux added, could have a complete cessation until the weekend or until the end of September. The Government could not accept what was said until it was confirmed it was permanent.

The Rev Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, claimed not a single word in the IRA announcement said it was renouncing violence. 'I don't see in the document any renunciation of violence, I hear the salute to murderers,' he said. 'I see no suggestion whatsoever of a permanent cessation of violence. What we are seeing is a clever Jesuitical expression 'complete cessation of violence' - for how long? Permanent means for ever, complete means only for the time during which that particular situation is accepted.' He called for a referendum to be held on whether the province should remain British and said a civil war in Northern Ireland remained a possibility.

John Hume, the SDLP leader, said: 'When I read the statement I saw it as permanent in that it said they were announcing a complete cessation of their activities. It's a piece of news that will be welcomed by Irish people everywhere, but particularly the people in the streets of Northern Ireland. Now we face the primary challenge, which is to reach agreement among our divided people.'

Tony Blair, the Labour leader, said that, if carried through, the cessation of IRA violence would mark a moment of history in the search for peace in Northern Ireland. 'The test will come in whether the statement's welcome intentions do indeed lead to a permanent renunciation of violence and the full commitment of the IRA to the democratic process.'

Lord Holme, Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesman, said: 'Any cessation in the murder and mayhem is very much to be welcomed,' but added: 'We don't yet know whether this is the permanent ceasefire which is really the precondition for the IRA joining the talks.'

The former Labour prime minister Lord Callaghan, who sent British troops into Northern Ireland, called on the Government to reassure the Protestant community to dispel any feelings of insecurity. He said: 'We must recognise that the IRA has been forced to concede it cannot win by the bomb. I thank God I have lived to see the day after 25 years when there is an opportunity to make a new start.'

However, the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) - the umbrella group which includes the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Volunteer Force - said: 'The CLMC wish to make it clear that we will not be dancing to the Pan-nationalist tune . . . Is our constitution being tampered with or is it not? What deals have been done?.'

Dr John Alderdice, leader of the Northern Ireland Alliance Party, which draws its members from both communities, said: 'This is the announcement we have all been waiting for for nearly 25 years now.'

Cardinal Cahal Daly, Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said: 'I am sharing in the rejoicing and relief which are surely being felt all over Ireland at the IRA's announcement of a cessation of violence on their part and a definitive commitment to the democratic political process. We humbly thank God who has heard the cry of his people for peace and has given us all this historic opportunity to work for a new future in this island.'

Dr Edward Daly, former Catholic bishop of Derry, said he felt like dancing at the ceasefire announcement. 'We can look forward to a bright future for the next generation and make up for the loss of so many lives that have been lost and ruined.'

Dr Robin Eames, the head of the Church of Ireland, said Northern Ireland was now entering a testing period during which the community would see whether the IRA's words were backed up by their actions.