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Adams challenges London and Dublin over peace process

The British and Irish governments should declare the Good Friday Agreement dead if they have an alternative solution to power-sharing in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams said tonight.
By: Press Association

As the political fallout continued over last month`s £26.5 million Northern Bank raid, Sinn Fein president Mr Adams insisted inclusive government involving unionists, nationalists and republicans was the only way forward for the country.

And following claims that Sinn Fein was given a stark message by Tony Blair in Chequers today that all IRA criminal activity must end, Mr Adams insisted there was no lecture from the Prime Minister during their first meeting since the robbery.

The West Belfast MP said: "The two governments say they are committed to the Agreement and I cannot see how they can go forward with anything less than it.

"Certainly there has been no discussion between us and either of the governments about such proposals.

"But if the governments want to go with something else, then they should stand up and say the Agreement is finished and we can all negotiate."

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde`s confirmation earlier this month that his officers believe the IRA carried out the Northern Bank heist torpedoed any hopes London and Dublin might have had of resurrecting their bid to restore devolution before the General Election.

Mr Adams said tonight the Prime Minister had put forward his view that the IRA was responsible for the robbery but had produced no evidence.

"The spin going into today`s meeting was that 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 Fein is opposed to criminality of any kind."

Last month, Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern felt they had come agonisingly close to bringing back power-sharing, with an historic deal involving Sinn Fein and the Reverend Ian Paisley`s Democratic Unionists stumbling over demands for photographic evidence of future IRA disarmament.

The bank raid, however, prompted the DUP and others to urge London to look at alternative ways to bring devolution to Northern Ireland which would freeze Sinn Fein out of government.

After today`s meeting, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness had been told unless criminal activity by the IRA ended there would be no inclusive executive.

"The IRA has to give all criminality up," he told the Press Association. "Unless that happens, I cannot see a situation where we can restore an executive."

And in a further warning to republicans, Mr Murphy said the Government would continue to explore other means of getting the Assembly functioning in the absence of devolution.

The DUP and cross community Alliance Party believe one of those ways is to have a voluntary coalition involving the nationalist SDLP.

But the SDLP has instead proposed the recall of the Assembly and the appointment of commissioners drawn from business, trade unions and the voluntary sector to run government departments until full blown devolution returns.

It has also been proposed that Stormont committees could be reconvened to scrutinise the work of Northern Ireland Office ministers.

Mr Murphy said these proposals would be considered at more meetings between the two governments and the parties over the coming weeks.

He also confirmed he would take part in talks next Tuesday involving the Prime Minister, Mr Ahern and Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern.

"There are a lot of ideas which have been discussed and may well be talking about these over the next couple of weeks," he said.

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