Ahern Tries to Distance Himself

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Taoiseach says peace process threatens to unravel

Irish Times Tue, Feb 22, 05

The Northern Ireland peace process threatens to “unravel” within weeks unless Sinn Féin gets the IRA to agree quickly to end paramilitary activity and criminality and complete decommissioning, the Taoiseach has said, write Mark Hennessy Gerry Moriarty and Denis Staunton

Warning that the marching season begins in four weeks, Mr Ahern issued one of his strongest pleas yet to Sinn Féin to move quickly: “We are into an unravelling situation that is serious and that is going to continue to be serious from the knowledge that I have.”

However, Mr Ahern said Sinn Féin’s Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness would have signed up last December to end all IRA criminality but they could not get the IRA’s agreement.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell’s decision to identify Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and Kerry North TD Mr Martin Ferris as members of the IRA army council has caused some irritation within the Government, with some figures labelling his action “a distraction”.

In Brussels, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, distanced himself from the assertion. He criticised Mr McDowell’s decision to make public the content of confidential Garda briefings. “These are issues that should not be vented in public.”

The Minister said it was “no surprise to anyone” that there was an intertwining in the leaderships of Sinn Féin and the IRA, but it was difficult to speak with authority on the leadership of a secret organisation such as the IRA. The confidence placed in Sinn Féin by the Government and by unionists was “severely dented”, and the Minister accused Sinn Féin and the IRA of opposing the will of the Irish people by refusing to abandon criminal activity.

“In 1998, in the first act of all-Ireland self-determination since 1918, the Irish people backed the Good Friday agreement. That agreement granted Irish people the legitimate expectation of an end to paramilitarism and criminality. That is clearly the will of the Irish people,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he believed Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness “genuinely” wanted the Belfast Agreement to be implemented fully. The December deal collapsed because of divisions in the Provisional republican community. “It is because SF went to the IRA, and the IRA would not allow them the movement. That is what happened,” said the Taoiseach.

The agreement cannot be implemented successfully “if the republican movement says ‘No’, if they tie the hands of the political leadership as they did in December. That is what they did the previous October and they did it the previous April. Three times,” Mr Ahern declared.

He warned that Sinn Féin could not be excluded from the Belfast Agreement, despite the discovery of the IRA’s recent criminality. A comprehensive peace deal cannot be agreed without republicans’ involvement, though they must accept fully peaceful means and the end of the IRA.

Sinn Féin will receive another blow today when the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, imposes sanctions on it following the Independent Monitoring Commission’s decision to blame the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery. In Belfast yesterday the Minister for Justice stood by his allegation that Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and Mr Ferris are currently members of the IRA’s leadership.

The Taoiseach denied he was at odds with him. “I might have my own views about whether people are, or are not, on the army council.” Neither he, nor Mr McDowell had “personal knowledge” of the council’s make-up. “The Minister is Minister for Justice and he does receive detailed intelligence briefings as Minister for Justice, but intelligence briefings are one thing, there is another thing about hard evidence,” he said.