27 January 2005 Edition
Sinn Féin hits back at Taoiseach in Dáil
BY Mícheál MacDonncha
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's policy on the Peace Process is now almost entirely dictated by his electoral competition with Sinn Féin and by the PDs' anti-republican crusade that is designed to capture Fine Gael voters. This was confirmed when Ahern stepped up his attacks on Sinn Féin in the Dáil on Wednesday. But the party's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin hit back and said Ahern's attack was "not about banks in Belfast but votes in Ballybough and Ballyconnell".
Yet again parroting the PSNI and even approvingly quoting British Intelligence, Ahern listed off alleged incidents in Belfast. He repeated his allegation that the Sinn Féin negotiators Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness acted in bad faith in the talks before Christmas. But this was roundly rejected by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:
"The Taoiseach has repeated his baseless allegation that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery and that they negotiated in bad faith last December. I totally reject that. I ask the Taoiseach to lay his evidence before the Dáil. But he has failed to stand up that charge in this Dáil and let the record show it. He should now withdraw the charge."
Ó Caoláin told the Taoiseach:
"The Taoiseach should make no mistake that my colleagues and I stand here on our mandate received from the Irish electorate and we will continue to represent that electorate. They are not second class citizens and nor are we. We will continue to present a republican challenge to a continued failure on the part of the Taoiseach and his party in ceding responsibility for all public utterances on the most important issue to be addressed in this country today to a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who would label Bobby Sands MP a criminal and, by the same criteria, would label as criminals the man whose portrait hangs in the Taoiseach's office and all those who were executed in 1916. That is what the Taoiseach has done and the grassroots of his organisation are saying repeatedly that it is a shame and scandal that he has handed responsibility for the peace process to a man and party who have made zero contribution to it from its inception."