DUBLIN -- Prime Minister Bertie Ahern urged Irish Republican Army commanders yesterday to meet what he acknowledged was ''a heavy burden": disarming and disbanding their organization in support of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.
Ahern, delivering an annual speech beside the grave of an 18th-century rebellion leader, said efforts to revive a Catholic-Protestant administration -- the key goal of the Good Friday Agreement six years ago -- depend on speedy IRA moves toward peace.
''The Good Friday Agreement is one of the key documents in the history of our nation. I have no doubt that it will endure as one of the great texts defining our times," said Ahern, who helped negotiate the deal. ''It behooves us to leave no stone unturned, no decision untaken, to ensure that it is fully implemented."
There was ''a heavy burden on all of those within republicanism to bring this about," Ahern said, referring to the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party. ''History will judge harshly those who temporize and, in so doing, lose this historic opportunity."
Negotiations last month in England led by Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain did not break the deadlock preventing a return to power-sharing between British Protestants and Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland.
The IRA called an open-ended truce in 1997 after killing about 1,800 people in a failed campaign to abolish Northern Ireland, a mostly Protestant part of the United Kingdom created in 1921, months before the overwhelmingly Catholic rest of Ireland won independence.
A power-sharing administration that included Sinn Fein took power in late 1999 but suffered several breakdowns over the IRA's refusal to disarm, another goal of the Good Friday Agreement.
The four-party coalition collapsed in October 2002, after police accused Sinn Fein's top legislative aide of gathering intelligence on potential targets, a scandal that underscored fears that the IRA might abandon its truce.
Leaders of the Democratic Unionists, the major Protestant party, say they will not work with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland until the IRA disbands.