Belfast Telegraph

Photos still on agenda
Ahern spells out weapons views to heal rift with DUP

By Chris Thornton and Brian Walker
15 December 2004

Photographs of IRA decommissioning remain part of the British and Irish governments' plan for restoring Stormont, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dail today.

Clarifying his views on photographic proof in order to defuse a row with the DUP, Mr Ahern said that London and Dublin knew the demand for pictures of decommissioning would be difficult but said they had been led to believe it would be addressed.

"In the context of an overall package, it was our understanding that this proposal would be considered by them," he said,

"They have, of course, since said that they are unable to agree to it."

Mr Ahern also rejected republican claims that photographs amounted to humiliating them - saying humiliation "did not play any party in the governments' proposals".

He also said the IRA had not made the necessary commitment on ending criminality that his government wants to see.

"Clarification is required that the IRA's commitment is, indeed, to a complete ending of paramilitarism and other illegal activity," he said.

"We are duty-bound to satisfy ourselves on this point. This whole initiative is based on this vital premise."

It was not immediately clear if Mr Ahern's remarks did enough to restore contact between his government and the DUP, but he came under further pressure from opposition leader Enda Kenny over the proposed release of Garda Jerry McCabe's killers.

The Fine Gael leader accused Mr Ahern of breaking his word and diminishing his office by agreeing to release the killers - including Strabane man Pearse McCauley - if a political deal is completed.

"Right thinking people are also outraged that the Taoiseach of this sovereign state chose to capitulate to a terrorist organisation who apparently refused to fulfil any of their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement unless his solemn word was broken, and broken in secret," Mr Kenny said.

The Dublin debate further reduced expectation of an early resolution to the political stand-off.

As US envoy Mitchell Reiss joined the efforts to pick up the pieces from last week's stalled peace deal, Sinn Fein and the DUP made it clear they were refusing to budge from their positions on photographic proof of decommissioning.

Sinn Fein held up direct talks with the DUP as one possible way of resolving the deadlock.

West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said it is "time for direct dialogue".

"If Ian Paisley is really interested in finding a solution to the problems then he should talk directly with Gerry Adams," he said.

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