The Irish National Liberation Army, an Irish Republican Army splinter group, has renounced violence and signalled that it could hand over weapons soon to disarmament officials.
The announcement was made Sunday by the Irish Republican Socialist Party, which is linked to the INLA, at the party's annual parade near Dublin in honour of its founder, Seamus Costello. An IRA member shot him to death in October 1977.
The outlawed INLA said it would observe "exclusively peaceful means" and co-operate with retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, leader of an international commission that oversees the disarmament of underground armies operating in both parts of Ireland.
However, the group did not explicitly promise to disarm fully or specify when the process would start.
British and Irish security officials downplayed the value of words from the INLA, an alliance of small gangs that have often turned on each other for control of criminal rackets, including sales of counterfeit goods and smuggled cigarettes.
The IRA-linked Sinn Fein party also expressed skepticism that the INLA statement really meant an ironclad commitment to nonviolence.
"However, if it is followed by the actions that are necessary, this is a welcome development," said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
The INLA killed more than 110 people from its founding in 1974 to its declaration of a shaky ceasefire in 1998. In the 11 years since, its members have killed or wounded more than two dozen people, mostly criminal rivals.
Analysts say one motivation behind the INLA's peace declaration may be that time is running out for its members to hand over guns and explosives without facing arrest and prison time.
Britain and Ireland plan soon to end their 12-year-old amnesty from criminal prosecution for militants who surrender weapons to de Chastelain.