Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD
I want to first of all congratulate Commissioner Conroy and the Gardai on their outstanding work. The whole community is deeply grateful to them. Robbery and money laundering have no place in our society; it was definitely not what the Irish people voted for, North and South, in the Good Friday referendums.
Secondly, we need to be very frank and honest. The peace process is in serious difficulty. The two Governments, with the parties in the North and the support of the Opposition here, have brought the process a huge way along the path to definitive peace. We have, I believe, transformed the quality of daily life for most people in Northern Ireland and relationships between North and South. In doing so, we have all taken risks, but risks which were in all the circumstances justified.
However, the time has come when we have to stand back and assess where we are, to identify honestly and rigorously the fault lines and to make it emphatically clear where the responsibility for the crisis lies. The Government has consistently said that criminality is at the centre of the current crisis. Recent events demonstrate beyond the slightest doubt that we were all too accurate in our judgement.
The reality is now that Sinn Fein have to recognise that Provisional criminality is the root cause of the impasse. If we are even to begin to rebuild the mutual trust needed to move to the full and final implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, this criminality needs to be addressed urgently and definitively. An explicit and dramatic initiative is needed. It is now up to Sinn Fein to assume their full responsibility. Only if they do so fully and unambiguously will the rest of us be able to respond.
In the meantime, the two Governments will move ahead, to the degree possible, with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Minister for Justice will meet the Secretary of State tomorrow (Monday) to take forward our ongoing co-operation in justice and policing. And on 2nd March Paul Murphy and I will co-chair a full meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference. This will review the working of the Agreement across all fronts and will take actively forward the implementation agenda, including in the critical North-South area.