The issue of arms held by paramilitary groups became a key issue in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement.
Following a Report by an International Body established to examine the issue, the two Governments set up an Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) to facilitate the putting of all such arms beyond use and report to the two Governments on progress achieved.
The Good Friday Agreement saw all participants reaffirm their commitment to total disarmament of all paramilitary groups and their commitment to use any influence they might have to achieve full decommissioning.
The first act of decommissioning took place in 1998 when the IICD reported that the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) had decommissioned a quantity of arms on 18 December.
The first acts of IRA decommissioning took place in October 2001 and April 2002. The two Governments reconfirmed their commitment to achieving resolution to this issue in their Joint Declaration of April 2003 (PDF 88kb), in the context of which the British Government outlined further the envisaged normalisation of security arrangements which would be enabled.
On 26 September 2005, the IICD reported that “the IRA had met its commitment to put its arms beyond use in a manner called for by the legislation”.
The Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair issued a joint statement welcoming this move as a landmark development and calling again for all loyalist arms to be decommissioned.
In a speech to Seanad Éireann on 6 October 2005, the Taoiseach confirmed that it was the view of the two Governments that IRA decommissioning had now been removed as an obstacle to political progress in Northern Ireland.