Summit planned as Ahern demands end to violence
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Irish Prime
Minister, An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern are to hold talks on the
worsening political situation in the North before St Patrick's
Day, it has emerged.
London officials were reported to have said that the present
review of the Good Friday Agreement "is unlikely to produce a
Mr Ahern yesterday insisted that continued IRA activity
effectively ruled out any prospect of achieving partnership among
the North's political parties.
Mr Ahern made the comments during a lecture at Derry's Magee
In a hardline statement on the peace process, Mr Ahern said the
Republican Movement must definitively end paramilitary activity,
in word and deed, if good governance is to be delivered to the
North of Ireland.
The Taoiseach also said unionist efforts to exclude Sinn Fein
from the political process were equally damaging to the prospects
of "partnership government".
Speaking in Derry yesterday, Mr Ahern said the two issues jointly
topped the British and Irish governments agenda in attempting to
reach agreement in the north.
Referring to recent allegations of IRA activity, Mr Ahern said he
was frustrated that the destructive agenda of the past damaged
collective efforts to move the peace process forward.
Opposing appeals from Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and
from the DUP for the exclusion of Sinn Fin, he said: "Some
parties seem to believe that a policy of exclusion is the answer.
It is my belief that any such policy would not be workable."
Speaking afterwards, Mr Ahern told reporters: "We had penalties
before against parties - Sinn Fin and the Ulster Democratic
Party out. What did we do after that? We brought them back in
He denied the Dublin government's attitude towards Sinn Fin had
hardened. "There is no change in our policy, and won't be."
Asked if he privately considered a deadline for so-called 'acts
of completion' by republicans, he answered: "We haven't reached
that time yet."
Around a dozen Sinn Fein supporters protested as he arrived at
Magee. They also waved placards accusing him of 'Standing Idly
By' in the peace process. A group of anti-war protestors
demonstrated as he departed.
Speaking afterwards, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness admitted there
was a danger of the process running into the sand.
He clearly recognised that there is an awful lot for everybody to
do within the process, he said.
"I agree with the Taoiseach that what we need to see are the
power-sharing institutions restored and all the groups within our
society discontinue violence and preparations for violence of any
Mr McGuinness also said more emphasis should also be placed on
unionist paramilitary activity and links between the DUP and
He said the idea that republicans had been involved in a
consistent basis in activities to undermine the peace process was
The Mid Ulster MP added that the Sinn Fein leadership fully
supported a comprehensive approach, involving all parties and
issues, to secure a "big deal" to end the crises in the peace
Mr McGuinness said Dublin and London had to work in tandem with
all pro-agreement groups to oppose elements opposed to the Good
He said: "A comprehensive approach is required. The Sinn Fein
leadership will do everything in its power to make our
contribution to that."
He added: "There are dissident activities out there. There are
people in society who are involved in punishment beatings who are
Mr McGuinness said the forthcoming European and local government
elections in the South explained much of the focus on alleged
republican paramilitary activity.
"We shouldn't let elections interfere in the work of the peace
process. It is more important than any election," he said. No one
in his party would run away from the challenges outlined by Mr
"The vast bulk of violence that we have experienced over recent
years has come from unionist paramilitaries."
Describing the DUP as "a party in transition" he forecast that
the Ian Paisley's party would eventually agree to share power
with Sinn Fein.
* The PSNI police chief Hugh Orde has insisted that the
Provisional IRA has been behind as many so-called punishment
beatings and shootings as the UDA -- about 50 in the past year,
including the alleged attempted abduction of republican dissident
Bobby Tohill last month.
Sinn Fein described the claims as unproven allegations and
accused the chief constable of increasingly "unwarranted and
unwanted political interventions".