Garda chief to join Ahern for Blair meeting

29 January 2005
By Harry McGee, Political Editor

GARDA Commissioner Noel Conroy will accompany Taoiseach Bertie Ahern when he meets British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday.
It is the first time that a garda officer has accompanied the Taoiseach to such a high-level meeting and it indicates the Government’s determination to maintain political pressure on Sinn Féin, as bitter recriminations continue about who was to blame for the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr Conroy will travel to Downing Street to attend one of two meetings between the two governments. The commissioner and PSNI chief constable Huge Orde will brief Mr Ahern and Mr Blair, as well as Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Northern Secretary Paul Murphy, on the robbery, as well as other criminal and paramilitary activities alleged to have been carried out by the IRA.

A second meeting between Mr Ahern and Mr Blair will assess the outcomes of the meetings that they have held in recent days with the leaders of Northern political parties, including Sinn Féin.

The focus on the Provisional movement following the robbery is unlikely to relent. Members of the International Monitoring Commission will meet Mr Ahern on Monday ahead of a likely announcement that it may proceed with a special inquiry looking into who was responsible for the robbery. The body’s next report is not due to be published until the end of March, but such a once-off investigation may result in the publication of an earlier interim report.

Meanwhile in London yesterday, Gerry Adams challenged the Irish and British Governments to declare the Good Friday Agreement dead if they are preparing alternatives to power-sharing government in the North.

Mr Adams denied that Mr Blair had issued the party with a stark warning yesterday, saying that the debate on who was to blame for the robbery was quickly disposed of, before the meeting had proceeded to wider substantive issues.

“The spin going into today’s meeting was there was going to be a row but there wasn’t,” he said. “We were not going to be lectured and we weren’t lectured.

“We have no apologies to make as Sinn Féin is opposed to criminality of any kind,” he said.

But Mr Murphy, speaking after the meeting, said Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness had been told unless criminal activity by the IRA ended there would be no inclusive executive.

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