Ahern sees danger of return to violence

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, warned yesterday that restoration of the Belfast Assembly is needed to avoid a return to violence.

Mr Ahern told David Frost on the BBC: ``The danger is that the assembly isn't working. If there is no executive, no sense of ministers working collectively then there is no political system.

``The risk is that people will take back to the streets in one form or another and that's a risk that is too great.''

``If you were to have that kind of frustrated period and rejectionist period, that I hope we do not see, then the future would be bleak and you would in-evitably get back into some kind of conflict. Let us hope it wouldn't be violence.

``No society operates without its elected administration.''

Mr Ahern said that the Troubles must be consigned to the past and political parties must move forward. Mr Ahern said ``the will of the people'' was that there should be an assembly and an executive, which this month's review of the Belfast Agreement is seeking to achieve.

``In peace processes all around the world there is never status quo but if there is static, they go backwards,'' he said.

``It's been six years since the Good Friday Agreement and we'd always built in a mechanism for review.''

However, the DUP was strongly critical of Mr Ahern's commeents. Mr Ian Paisley junior said Mr Ahern was ``out of touch with reality'' and insisted the Good Friday Agreement was dead.

``His call for the restoration of the failed power-sharing executive shows that he is either unwilling or unable to accept the lessons of the recent past.

``The executive, as established under the Belfast Agreement, was suspended four times because of the presence in it of armed and active terrorist representatives.

``What makes Mr Ahern think that the executive can succeed in its fifth chance, when that same party that is allied to a terrorist army is still armed and active?''


Last week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams wrote to the two governments outlining the party's view for the agenda and conduct of the forthcoming review.

Mr Adams said the failure by the two governments to fully implement the Agreement and their willingness at times to ``step outside'' the terms of the Agreement must be subject for the review.

The Sinn Féin leader called for the review to be time-limited to one month and added that provision should be made for input from interested parties from civic society, including other political parties, the voluntary and community sector, campaign groups, business sector, church, equality and human rights organisations, and trade unions.

Mr Adams said there should be dedicated meetings to discuss the various issues grouped under headings which bring together the different elements of the Agreement.

These included the political institutions; human rights and the equality agenda including victims; demilitarisation; the issue of arms; policing and justice; and prisoners and related matters.

Sinn Féin has proposed that the Agenda of the review discuss a range of issues including a re-endorsement of the Agreemeent; a referendum on Irish unity; an expansion of North South activity/structures; the All-Ireland parliamentary forum; the all-Ireland civic forum; the Irish Language and Symbols and emblems, as well as the issues of sanctions and the IMC.

Adams said Sinn Féin remain concerned that some parties may seek a renegotiation of the Agreement.

``There is an onus on both governments to make clear that this will not happen or that anti-Agreement parties will be allowed to use the Review for their own ends.

``The review is not a substitute for working political institutions.''

Adams also called for the lifting of the suspension of the institutions.

``It is both unfortunate and disappointing that parties are considering their approach to the review in the context of a continuing suspension of the political institutions,'' he said. ``This can only serve to encourage those who persist with a negative agenda and seek to veto the implementation of the Agreement.

``The suspension is itself a breach of the Agreement and undermines substantially any assertion by the governments that its fundamentals are not up for renegotiation.The suspension of the Assembly should be lifted immediately.''

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