AHERN GROVELS FOR PAISLEY
* DUP talks boycott hinges on second apology
Nationalist confidence in the current talks process dipped this
week as the the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern made a
grovelling apology to DUP hardliner Ian Paisley for suggesting
unionist demands for photographs of IRA weapons decommissioning
could not be met.
Mr Ahern issued a full apology to Ian Paisley after the DUP
leader became incensed at Ahern's comments that the
photographing of IRA weapons being destroyed was "not workable".
The statement, following a Dublin meeting with Sinn Fein's Gerry
Adams and Martin McGuinness, led Paisley to break off relations
with the Government.
In his remarks to journalists, the Taoiseach said: "The
Government's position is that we were happy with [arms body
chief] John de Chastelain. Then there was the issue of further
witnesses. We were happy with that. We tried the issue of
photographs. That's not workable, so we have to try and find
some other way. The big issue is that decommissioning, as I
understand it, is ready to happen; is ready to happen as part of
a comprehensive agreement. It won't happen if we don't get a
comprehensive agreement. Let's try to make it happen."
Speaking alongside Mr Ahern, Mr Adams said "the photograph was
never a runner, particularly since Ian Paisley described it as
being part of a process of humiliation. The focus can be on
words. The focus can be on photographs. It can be on all of
these matters. But it needs to be on the substance of what has
to be required, and then how that is verified and presented."
Sinn Fein president Mr Gerry Adams appeared to dismiss the
question of photographs later on Monday after lengthy talks with
Mr Blair and senior officials at 10 Downing Street.
"The photographs are dead and gone and buried in Ballymena,"
declared Mr Adams, referring to the Ian Paisley's now infamous
"sackcloth and ashes" speech.
However, the DUP leader had flown into a rage in Ballymena at
the suggestion that his writ was being challenged. He told
journalists: "From day one until now Mr Ahern never opposed
photographs, and [he] suddenly meets two IRA/Sinn Feiners and
comes out and says: 'It's not workable, that's out'.
"So anything the IRA says is not workable, he will bow to. He
double-crossed Mrs McCabe [regarding the release of the
Castlerea 4], he'll not double-cross us."
Dublin officials panicked. "Ian Paisley was very, very upset,"
said one. "I think some people were a little worried that the
reverend wouldn't take the call."
Mr Ahern quickly sought forgiveness from the Reverend, telling
Mr Paisley that he still wanted IRA decommissioning to be
Paisley, however, did not lift his boycott of Dublin government
Ministers and officials, instead demanding Mr Ahern put the
apology onto the record of the Irish parliament later today
Mr Ahern has said he will not apologise in public in parliament.
But he is expected to use diplomatic language in the Dail today
in a bid to ensure Mr Paisley attends a scheduled meeting with
Dublin officials this afternoon.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, the British
Direct Ruler, Paul Murphy and US President Bush's special envoy,
Mitchell Reiss, meet the parties in Hillsborough Castle outside
A Government spokesowman said she "presumed" that Mr Paisley
not seeking a public apology. "We would presume that they are
looking for the record to be straightened out."
Paul Murphy said the option of restoring the Belfast Assembly
had not been ruled out, pointing out that the legislation
requires that an election be held following the end of the
formal review of the Good Friday Agreement.
An election over a year ago led to advances for the DUP and Sinn
Fein, a result which brought about the current talks to restore
"If after six weeks, the parties in the Assembly can't come up
with an executive, can`t come up with a First Minister and a
Deputy First Minister, then they are required to go back to the
people for another election," Mr Murphy said.
"It is something which I doubt the people in Northern Ireland
will particularly want, because they have only just elected an
Meanwhile, the leader of the nationalist SDLP accused the two
governments and Sinn Fein of bowing to DUP demands to change the
Mark Durkan said the SDLP could be thrown out of the Executive
if it failed to vote for, or abstained from, a motion to appoint
a DUP first minister and Sinn Fein deputy first minister.
A Dublin government spokeswoman accepted that new rules would
force all those interested in holding office to vote for the