Weakness in Dublin's position exposed
``Everyone understands and accepts that participation in government can only be on the basis of a democratic mandate. Whether people like it or not, it is not compatible beyond a short transitional period to have that democratic mandate with armed backing.''
Whose words? David Trimble? Tony Blair? Guess again. The above statement was made by Bertie Ahern in the Dáil on 16 February. It shows a glaring weakness in the Dublin government position on the current crisis in the peace process. While they did oppose the suspension of the institutions by the British government, Bertie Ahern's description of Sinn Féin as a party with ``armed backing'' plays directly into the hands of the unionists and the British government and backs their false interpretation of the decommissioning section in the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in the Dáil on 22 February, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin rejected the Taoiseach's statement. He said: ``I enjoy no backing other than the popular support of the people of Cavan and Monaghan and this is the basis for the participation of all my party colleagues, North and South.''
Ahern acknowledged Sinn Féin's mandate but said that he ``cannot convince people that they are safe in the Executive or institutions because there is a link to people who are armed and that is part of the problem''.
Speaking to An Phoblacht following the exchange, the Sinn Féin TD said: ``The Taoiseach's own spurious statement in the Dáil last week about our mandate having `armed backing' is hardly designed to convince unionists to share power and his comments show an inconsistency and a weakness in the government's position.''