AHERN TO WORK WITH UDA
The 26-County Dublin government has said it is prepared to
work with the unionist paramilitary UDA to advance the peace
process despite the group's ongoing campaign of violence.
Following talks in Dublin with the organisation's political
representatives, the Ulster Political Research Group, Mr Ahern
said he hoped the meeting, along with others, would "over time
build a constructive relationship with the wider loyalist
The group is keen to secure better conditions for loyalist
prisoners in Northern jails and recently mounted a campaign of
pipe-bombing northern prison warders to that end.
"I know that all too often, loyalist people feel their voices
are not heard, and their concerns are ignored," said Ahern. "I
am encouraged by some of the positive work of the Loyalist
Commission and the Ulster Political Research Group.
"I stressed that progress can only be made when there is peace
on the streets and that the use of violence, the threat of
violence and involvement in criminality are contrary to the
interests of everybody, including the loyalist community
The UDA most recently declared a new ceasefire almost one year
ago, but it simply continued its violence on a number of
fronts, albeit at a reduced level.
Following the 90-minute meeting, UDA spokesman Tommy Kirkham
said: "It was an open meeting. It was amicable. We discussed
the situation within the prisons. In fact, we asked for
support for a review of the prisons' situation. He said he
would work with us in the future. Today is only the start of a
whole series of meetings."
Mr Kirkham said it was "an historic occasion" when his group
travelled to Dublin to get an audience for its concerns.
"For some months now there seems to have been a pandering to
the IRA by the Secretary of State and by the British Prime
Minister. It is only right that we bring those concerns to the
Taoiseach," Mr Kirkham told journalists.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has published agenda for the review of
the Good Friday Agreement due to start next Tuesday.
Party leader Gerry Adams has said that the Review will not be
a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement but was an
opportunity to accelerate the "process of change" promised in
The party has focused on four key areas - stability of the
[suspended] Institutions; Equality and Human Rights; Expansion
of All Ireland Commitments; and Demilitarisation, policing and
"The purpose of the Review is to identify how best to deliver
the full implementation of the Agreement," Mr Adams said. This
requires a focus on the failure of the British government to
deliver on key commitments on policing, demilitarisation,
equality and the issue of human rights.
"Sinn Fein will approach this review positively. The other
pro-Agreement parties and the two governments must also take a
positive and constructive approach. The future of the Good
Friday Agreement demands this.
"The Good Friday Agreement committed the participants to the
achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and trust and the
vindication of the human rights of all. We collectively
committed ourselves to partnership, equality and mutual
"To be effective the review must defend and accelerate the
process of change promised in the Good Friday Agreement".
* The party has also publicly announced independent Donegal
Councillor Thomas Pringle's decision to join Sinn Fein.