Sinn Féin reject Blair accusation

Mr McGuinness said the DUP had failed to commit to powersharing

Tony Blair was "talking nonsense" when he said IRA activity was the only obstacle to political progress, Sinn Fein has said.

Martin McGuinness said this was a "silly statement" as "everyone was aware of the DUP's failure to commit to powersharing".

He was speaking before a Sinn Fein delegation met the secretary of state.

A delegation from the Alliance Party has also been meeting Paul Murphy at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday.


Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Tuesday that ongoing IRA activity was the "obstacle to a lasting and durable settlement in Northern Ireland".

He was speaking after meeting Bertie Ahern at Downing Street to assess their political options in the wake of the £26.5m Northern Bank raid.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy updated them on the latest security assessments.

This included the state of the investigation into the Belfast robbery in December, which has been blamed on the IRA.

Mr Ahern told the Irish parliament on Wednesday that the police chiefs had unequivocally said that the Northern Bank raid and other robberies were carried out by the IRA.

They told the premiers that these were carried out with the approval of its Army Council and the knowledge of the political leadership, Mr Ahern added.

The taoiseach said the two governments were waiting for answers from republicans to the questions they posed on decommissioning, and on ending paramilitarism and criminality.

Ceasefire report

The Independent Monitoring Commission's report on the robbery is expected to be sent to the governments this week.

The ceasefire watchdog's report is expected to confirm the police assessment that the IRA was behind the raid, and to recommend certain sanctions.

The two prime ministers' meeting was seen as their most significant since they launched their joint proposals for the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland in December.

The two governments have been considering their strategy for the coming year.

It is understood they believe an all-inclusive executive is impossible without a complete end to IRA activity.

The four Independent Monitoring Commissioners have held recent meetings with the chief constable and the garda commissioner, as well as extensive high-level meetings with British and Irish Government officials.

There has been speculation that their report will be published next week.

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