Adams defends stand on peace process

09/02/2005 - 08:50:02

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will respond in the Dáil tonight to stinging criticism of his party’s approach to the peace process.

Cavan Monaghan TD Caoimhghin O Caolain will speak for five minutes in the second half of a landmark debate which has united government and opposition parties.

The Fine Gael motion – calling on the IRA to finally abandon violence and embrace peace – will be resumed at 7pm by justice minister Michael McDowell - the Government’s harshest critic of the republican movement.

Relations between the Government and Sinn Féin have been shattered since the pre-Christmas Northern Bank robbery which was blamed on the IRA.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte last night accused Sinn Féin of using the peace process for political gain and controlling communities with punishment beatings.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said: “A blind eye has been turned to the ongoing criminality of the IRA for too long … well tonight Fine Gael is shouting ’Stop’.”

In an obvious reference to recent IRA statements, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dáil that the Government would not be intimidated by threats, no matter how implicit or subtle.

But Mr O’Caolain described the hard-hitting Fine Gael motion as very negative and said it offered nothing to move the peace process forward.

He told reporters: “We will defend the mandate of our party which has the support of over a third of a million voters on this island.”

Government agreement was finally reached with the Fine Gael motion after Mr Ahern confirmed that the early release of the IRA killers of Det Garda Jerry McCabe was “no longer on the table”.

Mr Ahern provoked opposition outrage last December when he revealed that the four men convicted of the 1996 crime could be freed as part of a Sinn Féin demand en-route to an overall peace deal.

Former junior foreign affairs minister, Liz O’Donnell – who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – is also expected to speak for the motion tonight, as well as other smaller parties and independents.

Fine Gael’s 10-point Private Members’ Motion – which is signed by the party’s front bench – is expected to be overwhelmingly passed with all-party support.

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