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29 April 2004 Edition

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Bertie Ahern acknowledges Sinn Féin good faith

Bertie Ahern on Wedneday was forced to acknowledge that Sinn Féin is not involved in criminality. Ahern, speaking in the Dáil, said he accepted "what Deputy Ó Caoláin has put on the record" when the Cavan/Monaghan TD said, "Sinn Féin is not and has not been involved in, or been a beneficiary from, such (criminal) activities, either in this jurisdiction or in any part of this island or beyond." Ó Caoláin had rejected the "barrage of accusations directed at Sinn Féin by some politicians and indeed some journalists, whose anti-republican bile is apparently inexhaustible".

The exchange took place during Leader's Questions, during which the Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader challenged the Taoiseach on the recent role of the Government in the peace process.

Referring to the current impasse and the repeated attacks on republicans from various Government TDs, Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach did he agree that "there can be no return to the days of preconditions, megaphone diplomacy which, all too sadly, we have examples of in the recent past, or the scapegoating of any party"?

Ahern said: "The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has always been an inclusive process. Partnership is at the very heart of the Agreement and in order to achieve progress on a sustainable basis it is important that all outstanding issues are resolved collectively."

In an apparent acknowledgment that republicans were not to blame for what he called the "fundamental difficulties" that were created last October, the Taoiseach went on to recognise the IRA initiative of the time as "substantive and sufficient for me".

The Taoiseach also claimed he argued against the British Government's decision to introduce a Bill that allows a British Minister to dismiss a Minister from the Executive without a vote in the Assembly after Ó Caoláin said it was "in clear breach of the letter and spirit" of the Agreement.

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