8 April 2004 Edition

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Ó Caoláin urges Basque-Spanish peace process

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Taoiseach in his role in the EU Presidency and using his experience in the Peace Process to encourage inclusive dialogue to address the Basque-Spanish conflict. He urged the lifting of the Spanish Government's ban on Basque political parties.

Speaking in Leinster House on Tuesday, Ó Caoláin joined with other TDs in expressing abhorrence at the Madrid atrocities. He said the subsequent result of the Spanish general election was indicative of a rejection by the Spanish people of the Aznar government's spin and deception during the war in Iraq and following the bombings in Madrid, when it sought to lay the blame at ETA's door. Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach:

Ahern replied that it would be "good and useful if there could be an overall, peaceful settlement to the Basque question" and went on:

"As a first step to that, if people were to move away from all forms of violence, it would help. Mr Aznar has been a hard fighter against ETA for many years, and he expressed his views on this. I suppose he had good reason to be since ETA almost killed him. That helps to focus the mind and he has continued to take a strong line. There seems to be some indication of efforts to try to establish a ceasefire, reach a peaceful solution and to move on. That would be helpful but it is a matter for the incoming Spanish Government to try to make progress, as Mr Aznar has worked hard to do over the years."

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