N. Ireland Conflict

November 30th, 2004  

Topic: N. Ireland Conflict

Ahern calls on Blair to accelerate military reduction

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, has personally urged the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, to speedily move on demilitarisation to enhance the prospects of Sinn Féin and the DUP signing off on a deal to restore devolution. Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor reports
December 13th, 2004  
The Taoiseach and the Sinn Féin president will lead senior delegations at an early-morning meeting in Dublin today designed to rescue the deal in the North, against a backdrop of escalating bitterness between them.

The acrimony between Sinn Féin and the Government over the issue of the Jerry McCabe killers grew dramatically yesterday, with the Taoiseach saying Mr Gerry Adams was "wrong" on the matter, while Sinn Féin TD Mr Aengus Ó Snodaigh called Mr Ahern a "liar" in response.

The exchanges came on the eve of this morning's meeting between the Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Justice and a Sinn Féin delegation led by Mr Adams. Mr Adams will fly later today to London for talks at Downing Street with the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair.

Mr Ahern again insisted yesterday that a deal was close, and he signalled the Government has still not given up hope of a deal before Christmas. "It would be an act of insanity by the whole lot of us" not to reach agreement now, he said.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, and the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, will host meetings with the North's political parties on Wednesday in Belfast, while the following day the Taoiseach and Mr Blair meet in Brussels on the margins of an EU summit.

The Taoiseach revealed that the IRA's representative had been in contact with Gen John de Chastelain of the decommissioning body over the weekend. "Even since Wednesday, over this weekend, there has been further work and further engagement between the IRA and Gen John de Chastelain and that should be read as a very positive sign," he said.

Nevertheless, there were signs of growing tensions yesterday between the Government and Sinn Féin amid fears that the failure to conclude a deal last week could lead parties to move back from commitments they had been prepared to make.

The Taoiseach yesterday flatly contradicted two of the key points made by Mr Adams during a Late Late Show interview on Friday night: that he had given assurances to Sinn Féin five years ago that the McCabe killers would be released from jail if there was a deal, and that Sinn Féin had effectively signed up to a "no criminality" pledge sought by the two governments.

Mr Ó Snodaigh called the Taoiseach "a liar" for denying he had given Mr Adams an assurance, before the McCabe killers were convicted, that they would be released if there was a comprehensive deal.

Asked if he was calling Mr Ahern a liar, Mr Ó Snodaigh told TV3's programme The Political Party yesterday: " Yes. I am in this case. If he is not willing to say what transpired when negotiations were ongoing over the last number of years, then I am saying he was a liar. This was put to bed between the Government and our negotiators way back There was an understanding between our negotiators and the Taoiseach and all of his negotiators."

The Taoiseach had said earlier this was not true. It was "not correct" for Mr Adams to say, as he has done twice, that around the time of the signing of the Good Friday agreement the government had given Mr Adams the understanding that the McCabe killers would be released.

"The McCabe killers were not even convicted at that stage. Technically they were still innocent people. The court case wasn't for another 10 months", he told RTÉ's This Week programme.

"In fairness to Gerry, he usually has a good memory but on this one he is wrong." A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach later declined to respond to the "liar" remark. Mr Ahern also demanded a clear commitment from the IRA not to engage in future criminality.
December 13th, 2004  
On January 8th 1994 Sinn Fein established a Peace Commission to assess the Downing Street Declaration in terms of the party's overall peace strategy and to consult with the widest possible spectrum of public and private opinion on how to establish a lasting peace in Ireland. Five public meetings were held and 228 written and oral submissions received.


The Springfield Inter Community Development Project believed that distrust was the biggest obstacle to any solution and that any dialogue that excludes any party to the conflict is meaningless and must not be dictated by preconditions. They welcomed the Declaration as a step in the process. An anonymous resident from Carnhill (Derry 27) believed that the Declaration is full of contradictions and attempts to be all things to all people but is a good opportunity to bring the conflict to an end. Another anonymous submission (Derry 28) believed that the union is as good as dead and that there is no real affection between the British government and the unionist people. The person believed that "peace would transform the situation".

Dublin Submissions
The Peace Train submission believed that the Declaration provides a basis for upon which a just peaceful and mutually respectful future can be built.

However Ulick O'Connor took an opposing view to the Declaration as a whole when he says that in previous agreements such as Sunningdale "the British Government failed to fulfil its obligations". This was echoed in Rita Ui Raghaill, who says in her submission that the British government has given no indication that it is worthy of trust. She felt that Britain must give more assurances to nationalists. Michael Farrell also made this point when he says that the British Government must be pressurised to balance the Declaration with equivalent guarantees to nationalists in North.

Matt Merrigan took this a step further and said in his submission that the British Government must state what the next step is after the Declaration.

Eoin 0 Mhurchu proposed in his submission that one of the next steps should be the formation of a nationalist consensus. He believed that the Declaration did signify a shift by Britain. He argued that a mass national movement was the logical step in the desire for creating a lasting peace.

Cork Submissions
J McLaughlin stresses in his submission that "any political settlement in N. Ireland should acknowledge formally that there are two ethnic groups in Northern Ireland".

Green Party member Vincent MacDowell describes the Declaration in his submission as "inadequate". He believes that "the Northern Irish people should not be required to submit to an arrogant Diktat, whose terms they had no hand in composing".

Labhras 0 Donnghaile argued for clarification in his submission. However he also believed that clarification should not only be sought from the two governments but from all groups who have been loud in support of the Declaration.

Brendan Ryan said in his submission that the Declaration was a viable alternative. He believed that it had changed the political climate and was a unique opportunity to make silenced people heard. Jim Corocoran also felt that conditions now exist for opportunities to advance. Green party councillor Dan Boyle articulated this in a different way when he says the Declaration is a political fudge, but this necessary as it could bring everyone to the table.
December 14th, 2004  
The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, last night issued a full apology to the DUP leader, Rev Ian Paisley, after he had earlier said the photographing of IRA decommissioning was not "workable".

The statement, following a Dublin meeting with Sinn Féin's Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness, led the DUP to threaten to break off relations with the Government.

However, Mr Ahern seems to have healed the rift in a nine-minute phone call to Dr Paisley, emphasising that the governments still wanted IRA decommissioning to be photographed.

"The Taoiseach apologised for any confusion that this might have caused, and reassured Rev Paisley that the Irish Government had not abandoned the proposals of last week," said a spokeswoman.

In a bid to bring an end to the controversy as quickly as possible, Government sources made no effort to hide the fact that Mr Ahern had blundered in his remarks. "Ian Paisley was very, very upset," said one source. "I think some people were a little worried that the reverend wouldn't take the call."

The DUP said it expected formally to remove the boycott of Government Ministers and officials once the Taoiseach had publicly put on record his position.

A party spokesman told The Irish Times that Mr Ahern had met its primary requirements during his phone call. Once he made his position clear publicly, most probably during his statement during the Dáil debate on the British-Irish "Comprehensive Agreement" tomorrow morning, "then DUP members would be free to have talks with Dermot Ahern at Hillsborough later".

In his remarks to journalists, the Taoiseach said: "The Government's position is that we were happy with 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."

Although Mr Ahern has reaffirmed his commitment to the photographing of IRA decommissioning, it is not certain that he is committed to their publication.

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."

After Mr Adams met Mr Tony Blair in London, Sinn Féin declared the issue of photographs "dead and gone and buried in Ballymena".