::: u.tv :::

**from yesterday


27/07/2004 17:48:20

A former Irish Prime Minister provoked outrage tonight after he
lavished praise on the man who helped direct the IRA's 30 year
campaign of bloodshed in Britain and Ireland. By:Press Association

Albert Reynolds stunned victims` families when he paid tribute to Joe
Cahill at his funeral in west Belfast.

As thousands of republicans followed his coffin on the Falls Road, Mr
Reynolds declared: "We worked together on the peace process. He was a
remarkable man and he played a major part.

"The only thing I regret is he didn`t last long enough to see the
process completed. I`m sure it would have been his greatest

But the widow of police constable Gary Meyer, who was shot dead by
IRA gunmen in Belfast in June 1990, was horrified by the eulogy.

Iona Meyer said: "They put them up on a pedestal and forget
everything they have done.

"But for us victims it`s wrong because the grief and hurt is still
there and will not go away.

"It`s almost as if they have the God-given right to take life."

Mr Reynolds helped persuade the US authorities to grant Cahill a visa
in 1994 so he could sell the IRA ceasefire to Irish Americans.

He joined mourners who brought west Belfast to a halt for the ex-
Provisional Chief of Staff`s funeral.

Cahill, 84, who helped form the modern IRA and shape its ruthless 30
year campaign of terror, died at the weekend from asbestosis.

In a paramilitary career spanning decades, he escaped a death
sentence for his part in the 1942 murder of a police constable in
Belfast. Cahill was later jailed again for gun-running in 1973.

At one stage during his funeral, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and
the party`s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, the IRA`s former No 2
in Derry and now the MP for Mid Ulster, carried the coffin which was
draped in the Irish Tricolour.

There was a guard of honour of men wearing black berets and a lone
piper headed the huge procession stewarded by republicans in white
shirts and black ties.

It was one of the largest republican funerals in west Belfast since
the IRA hunger strike death of Bobby Sands in 1981.

The Brighton bomber Patrick Magee; Padraig Wilson, the former IRA
leader inside the Maze; Brian Keenan, who sits on the Provos` ruling
army council; and top Belfast republicans Eddie Copeland and Bobby
Storey all followed the coffin.

As he delivered a graveside oration at Milltown Cemetery, Mr Adams
warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that elements within his own system
are encouraging a backward slide in the Northern Ireland peace

It was being done to placate Unionists who were against change, he

The West Belfast MP claimed: "It is the securocrats on the British
side and their allies who are calling the shots."

The republican leadership will be heavily involved in intensive make-
or-break talks in September in a bid to restore the power sharing
executive in Belfast which was suspended last October over Unionist
claims of an IRA spy ring operating at Stormont.

Mr Adams, a close confidante of Cahill, added: "Tony Blair has said
if the process isn`t going forward, it will go backwards.

"We have told him in recent times that elements within his own
system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert
progress and to encourage the backward slide."

As a hush fell over the graveyard, folk singer Frances Black broke
into a traditional Irish lament, The Bold Fenian Men, after telling
the crowd: "This is for Joe."

Earlier, outspoken priest Father Des Wilson praised Cahill`s bravery
and struggle to overcome what he described as a refusal of basic
rights for many in Northern Ireland.

He told a packed St John`s Church: "The history of the years in which
Joe lived is like a history of horrors.

"But whatever the crisis, there were men and women like Joe and his
companions who responded to the needs of those people who had not
created war but too often were the victims of it."

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