Irish Republican News · April 26, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Embattled Ahern holds talks

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams held what was described as a “frank, positive meeting” in Dublin this afternoon.

The Sinn Féin leader called on the Irish and British governments to break the impasse in the peace process and to stop “attacking his party” and “get down to solving the problems which are holding up progress.”

The political process is at its lowest ebb following the allegations contained in a report by the Independent Monitoring Commission last week. The body, set up last year by the two governments for the purpose, excoriated continued activity by the Provisional IRA and called for British state funding to be withheld from the party -- despite admitting that Sinn Féin did not control the IRA.

All-party talks in the formal review of the crisis-ridden 1998 Good Friday Agreement are to continue despite accusations of bad faith by republicans, who accuse the governments of reneging on the Agreement.

The Taoiseach will also meet SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan on Friday and will hold talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair next weekend’s European Union enlargement event in Dublin.

The talks come as the Dublin government comes under strong criticism for helping to marginalise and pressurise Sinn Féin in advance of local and European elections in June.

The North’s Policing Board chairman Denis Bradley, normally seen as an ally of the two governments, accused Dublin of failing to grasp the chance to strike a deal which would restore power-sharing and see the IRA ending activity.

“This is the moment to do the business. You can’t wait for Europe. You can’t wait for the next Westminster elections,” he said.

Mr Bradley said Mr Ahern should give the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, a free hand. “Somebody like Brian Cowen can make this happen, and it can be done in a short period of time. But you can’t expect the IRA to walk down the road to oblivion unless they know what is in place is full power-sharing and all the institutions of the Good Friday agreement.”

Mr Bradley added: “The North is not going to go back to war but it is going into a very dangerous period of time.”

He said republicans had “over-played their hand” last year when unionists demanded public by the IRA and a vow by them to cease activity and disband.

Three key intermediaries, who had been used by Dublin in the past to broker peace efforts, have “been ignored” for months, he claimed.

The two governments should not be hesitant about further talks because of fears that the IRA will fail to deliver: “I believe the IRA is prepared to go away but if it isn’t then the Irish people should be told that fact.

“If it won’t go away then referendums should be held on the island of Ireland asking the people did they want the IRA to go away, so that the IRA would clearly know the view of the people,” he added.

When asked if he believes the only thing that’s stopping a deal in the North is lack of political will on the part of the Dublin Government, Mr Bradley replied: “Yes. The only thing that’s stopping this deal being done is the Irish Government putting in the energy, and focusing on this for a number of weeks, and bringing it about.”

Mr Bradley’s comments came as Mr Ahern spoke at the Fianna Fail Easter Rising commemoration in Arbour Hill, in which he called for all “private armies” to stand down.

“To make progress everyone has to give and take but time is of the essence. The political parties need to get on, stop the rhetoric and get on with it,” he said. The time for maintaining “polite fictions and Chinese walls” was now passed, he said.

Mr Ahern said there were still some “dangerous people” hiding behind the mask of political acceptability.

“Everybody has continued to talk about the peace process but we’re not following that up with the necessary actions,” he said.

The Taoiseach blamed Sinn Féin for the breakdown of previous agreements last year, when Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble collapsed moves to restore devolved government in Belfast because of a lack of ‘transparency’ over IRA decommissioning.

“What I am not prepared to do is sit around talking about the same things that we signed off on a year ago. That is a waste of time, quite frankly. We know the arguments.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has angrily criticised the British and Irish governments, accusing them of showing a “reckless attitude” towards the peace process.

Speaking to a group of activists in Belfast yesterday, Mr Adams also attacked the IMC.

He said: “[The] report from the British government’s so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is a partisan, short-sighted, unjust attack against Sinn Féin and is evidence of both governments’ growing recklessness.”

Mr Adams said nationalists and republicans are justifiably angry at the behaviour of the British and Irish governments who “seem to be willing to risk the peace process for short-term political gain”.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, a Sinn Féin delegation met with the British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy at Stormont Castle. Speaking after the meeting Conor Murphy said Sinn Féin, “unlike the British government” was not in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We have fulfilled all our responsibilities and obligations and will continue to do so. Sinn Féin will not be held responsible for any words or deeds other than our own.”

He said the decision to remove block assistance from Sinn Féin was “discriminatory”.

“It discriminates against both our party and those we represent. The British government have no right to penalise political parties or elected political representatives in Ireland.”

  • The Progressive Unionist Party may terminate its contacts with the IMC after its funding was cut over continuing activity by the paramilitary UVF, to which the PUP is linked.

    Party leader David Ervine said: “The IMC report was an absolute insult to people like ourselves who have worked hard to bring about a peaceful society.

    “It was full of middle class morality and produced by government lackeys with no real feel of the working class loyalist community or appreciation of the work that has been undertaken to move this process forward.”

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    © 2004 Irish Republican News