Sinn Féin has urged the Dublin government to block attempts to introduce discrimination against republicans following police allegations of “IRA criminality”.
The Independent Monitoring Commission, a body set up by the two governments to impose sanctions against Sinn Féin, is set to call for new penalties against the party following unsubstantiated allegations of Provisional IRA involvement in the robbery of the Northern Bank cash centre in Belfast before Christmas.
Gerry Kelly, a senior negotiator and former Assembly member, called on the Dublin premier, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, to act on his claim that he opposed any discrimination bid.
“If Bertie Ahern is against sanctions then the [Irish Government] needs to do something about that and should say to the British ‘we will not accept sanctions’,” he said yesterday.
Republicans have denounced the three-member Independent Monitoring Commission as a puppet of the British military and government.
Mr Ahern told the Dublin parliament that the commission’s report goes further than he ever did in blaming the IRA for the heist.
“If anything, it will go beyond anything I have said on previous occasions,” Mr Ahern said.
This has led to speculation that the IMC is set to name prominent republicans when it publishes its report, despite potentially serious legal and political ramifications.
Republicans consider the Taoiseach’s statement on his opposition to IMC sanctions to be disingenuous.
“Sanctions has been tried before,” said Mr Kelly. “It doesn’t work. Exclusion has been tried before, criminalisation has been tried before - all these have been tried before.” He said it was not good enough for Mr Ahern to proclaim his opposition to sanctions against Sinn Féin.
“The Irish Government, as a co-equal partner, should block sanctions by the IMC because the IMC does have a representative of the Irish Government on it, and was set up by the two governments to take sanctions against Sinn Féin. It was set up as a sop to unionists.”
He warned: “If the IMC want to make victims out of our voters I will robustly and strongly defend their right and our mandate.”
Mr Kelly discounted the allegations against the IRA allegations, and condemned suggestions, first voiced by Mr Ahern, that the Sinn Féin leadership knew in advance of the robbery.
“Neither of those are fact, in fact they are absolutely wrong,” he said.
Mr Kelly pointed to previous statements from Dublin which appeared only to simulate a pro-nationalist stance.
“We have had situations before with the suspension of the institutions, for instance, where the Irish Government said publicly they were against it but frankly did not do a lot to stop the British suspending the institutions,” said Mr Kelly.
“The Taoiseach now says he is opposed to sanctions. I hope he will follow that through. But I am doubtful based on the history of the suspension of the institutions. We need it blocked by the Irish Government. We are co-equal partners in this process.”
Despite the political fallout from the robbery, Mr Kelly said he was sure the US administration would not respond by excluding Sinn Féin representatives at the White House during St Patrick’s week next month
“I met the State Department when I went over last week. They said they had no intentions of changing the normal arrangements,” Mr Kelly said.