War on Terror: Hope; Adams Calls on IRA to Hand over Its Weapons - DOWNING STREET History Teaches Us We Should Wait until We See What People Say Then Do
Byline: JAMES HARDY, Political Editor
THE Northern Ireland peace process was on the verge of an historic breakthrough last night after Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams urged the IRA to disarm.
Hopes were growing in Belfast, London, Dublin and Washington that the IRA will now issue a statement before midnight on Thursday - the deadline for saving the province's political institutions from collapse.
In a speech to party activists, Mr Adams said: "We have put to the IRA the view that if it could make a groundbreaking move on the arms issue, this could save the peace process from collapse and transform the situation."
He coupled the appeal to republicans in Belfast with a call for unity in IRA ranks - raising hopes of a breakthrough within days.
Mr Adams said it was a time for "brave hearts and clear heads".
If the IRA disarm, it could prevent the collapse of the Assembly, power- sharing executive and other institutions.
They have been under threat since Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble resigned as First Minister, followed by five UUP and Democratic Unionist ministers. IRA disarmament is expected to lead to the removal of Army watchtowers in republican South Armagh and an attempt to secure the re-election of new First and Deputy First Ministers at Stormont.
Mr Adams has been secretly trying to convince republican hardliners for weeks that the time is right to disarm.
Last night's statement came after Mr Adams met Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, Mr Trimble and incoming nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan. …