IRA campaign 'well and truly over'
The British and Irish governments declared last night that the Provisional IRA had met its commitments after the Independent Monitoring Commission confirmed it was satisfied the terrorist campaign was "well and truly over".
The DUP also appeared to soften its stance slightly and leader Peter Robinson welcomed the IMC report.
Earlier this week, Mr Robinson had demanded that the IRA's army council be formally disbanded before his party could engage further with Sinn Fein in sorting out the policing and justice issues in the North.
But last night he accepted the IMC finding that the IRA was being allowed to wither away, although he said the unionist community needed to be convinced that the IRA was out of business for good.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was emphatic that the IRA had left the stage and called on unionists to "get real" and accept that position.
In Belfast, Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward said the IRA had abandoned all terrorist structures, its recruitment and its so-called military departments, which had ceased to function and were disbanded.
He dismissed the earlier DUP demands and asked: "If there isn't an army, then what are we talking about here?"
In Dublin, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the IMC could not have been more unequivocal in its conclusion that the Provisional movement was now irreversibly locked into following the political path.
He described the report as very positive and said it showed that the IRA had not only gone away but was not coming back.
One of the four members of the IMC, Lord Alderdice, said a formal statement confirming the end of remaining IRA structures was now unlikely.
"You would have to bring people back together again to do something.
"It would be almost like waking somebody to give them a sleeping tablet," the former Speaker of the Northern Assembly added.
"What we have seen is the functioning and structure of the IRA as a whole, from bottom to top, falling into disuse.
"It is hard to report a negative. There isn't really much more to say," Lord Alderdice added.
The IMC concluded: "Now that the IRA campaign is well and truly over, the army council, by deliberate choice, is no longer operational or functional."