Ahern admits adviser held talks with dissidents

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, has confirmed that, despite previous denials, his former special adviser on the North held a meeting with a Republican dissident group.

Mr Ahern said Dr Martin Mansergh had contact with the `32 County Sovereignty Committee' -- linked to the so-called `Real IRA' -- both before and after the Omagh bomb attack, in which 29 civilians died.

Answering questions in the Dublin parliament, Mr Ahern also said that Belfast priest Father Alex Reid, who was involved in negotiations leading up to the current peace process, met the organisation.

Mr Ahern said that following the announcement of the ceasefire by the `Real IRA', in September 1998, the Dublin government communicated the message that the group should not only maintain their ceasefire but should disband and cease to exist by the end of that year.

Mr Ahbern said Dr Mansergh had put a report of his meeting on record at the justice department and his own department.

And he added: ``I accept that it would have been better if I had mentioned it at that particular time but I do so now.''

Meanwhile, a dissident republican group, the Continuity IRA, has claimed responsibility for planting an incendiary bomb outside a police station in North Belfast.

The 30lbs device and timer was contained within a gas cylinder in a car parked near York Road police station. The alarm was raised around 9pm last night after a telephone warning was received.

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