A member of the Dublin parliament for the junior coalition government partners, the Progressive Democrats, has said she thought “bashing Sinn Féin” was not a good thing.
Liz O’Donnell was attending the meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body.
“I think it is disrespectful - we had a very respectful dialogue with Sinn Féin,” she said.
“We made a lot of progress on the back of that, respect for people’s. I think to turn around then and completely change the demeanour and the tone of the relationship between the Government and Sinn Féin is not necessarily productive.”
Her statement appeared to put her at odds with her party colleague, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.
She said she understood that Mr McDowell was in possession of information and knowledge others did not have.
Rather than openly condemning the “absence” of IRA arms decommissioning, which she said was false because there has been decommissioning as verified by the international body, she had moved on from decommissioning and others should too.
“Perhaps a more productive line of political development would be Sinn Féin’s engagement in the policing authority.
“Because in my view when Sinn Féin is involved in the management and participation of policing then the decommissioning of arms is actually self-evidently over then, because they would be involved in running Northern Ireland from a security sense.
“It is more productive to change the issue away from arms and move onto the issue of where does Sinn Féin stand othe governance of Northern Ireland and the policing of Northern Ireland.
“Let them move on and have a discussion on that.”
She said it was no surprise to anyone involved in the political process in the last five years that the International Monitoring Commission found an alleged link between Sinn Féin and criminal activities in the north.
“We suspended our critical faculties in the cause of political development. We always have known that Sinn Féin and the IRA are linked, and that there is a very unsavoury connection between the two organisations.”
Neither was it a surprise to her that the IRA were involved in criminal activities. “It is about the way you look at things, I would much prefer to get back to the mindset that we had when I was involved.”
Those linked with criminal activities should be prosecuted Ms O’Donnell said and it was completely separate from the peace process.
“I believe that when Sinn Féin are involved in policing and management and participation of policing in the community the war is definitely over.
“And that is what people want to see. Neither Government has responded to changed political territory since the elections in Northern Ireland - the Assembly has changed - different parties are in the ascendancy and the DUP is the major player.
“One of the major mistakes we made in the peace process was not to adequately engage with the huge cohorts of the unionist opinion as represented by the DUP. They do have the majority, the onus is on the two Governments to really sit down and engage with them.
“I do feel that a complacency and acceptance of a stagnation has crept into the process, and it is a source of great regret to me because if you are not moving forward in this, the capacity to backslide or stagnate is very strong.”
Sinn Féin welcomed Ms O’Donnell’s comments which were described as “rational” and expressing “common sense.”
SF deputy Arthur Morgan contrasted them with what he said were selfish and dishonest utterances by senior FF and PD ministers.
The Department of Justice said that Mr McDowell would not be responding to his PD colleague’s comments.