Republicans must deliver, warns Taoiseach

21/02/2005 - 18:01:11

The unravelling of the Northern Ireland peace process will get worse unless the Republican movement starts to deliver, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said tonight.

With Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris categorically denying membership of the IRA’s army council, Mr Ahern said he was still prepared to do political business with Sinn Féin.

But he warned: “They now have to deliver. Otherwise it will continue to unravel. We’re into a unravelling situation that is serious and is going to continue to be serious from the knowledge that I have.”

“If the Republican movement says no. If the Republican movement ties the hands of the political leadership like they did last December …then we’ve have a huge dilemma.”

Mr Ahern insisted that he wouldn’t exclude Sinn Féin from power-sharing talks despite the party’s alleged links to a multi-million IRA cash racket uncovered by police last week.

He also indicated that the tense marching season in Northern Ireland was only four weeks away and the party needed to clarify its position on decommissioning and on ending criminality and paramilitarism.

“The easiest thing for me would be to walk away and exclude them,” he said.

Eight people were arrested – including a former Sinn Féin councillor – during the massive garda operation of nationwide raids on homes and offices.

Mr Ahern also insisted today that he has no “hard evidence” of who sits on the IRA’s army council and neither did justice minister Michael McDowell.

Mr McDowell provoked outrage from Sinn Féin yesterday when he bluntly named Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and North Kerry TD Mr Ferris as members of the seven-man ruling army council.

But Mr Ahern said: “I do not know who’s on the army council. I understand that the process is they change it around.

“I don’t have intelligence reports on it. I do not have hard evidence,” he said.

Mr Ahern said he blamed the Northern Bank heist on the IRA because he had the professional assessment of gardaí based on their evidence, but this wasn’t possible in relation to information on the make-up of the army council.

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