Ahern had said Monday that he believed that the DUP leader’s demand for visible IRA decommissioning was “not workable” and that a different way was needed to reach agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
His comments, which followed a meeting with Sinn Fein’s president, Gerry Adams, and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness in his constituency office in north Dublin prompted the DUP to cut off all contact with the Irish government.
Ahern told reporters: “The government’s position is that we were happy with John de Chastelain. Then there was the issue of further witnesses. We were happy with that. We tried the issue of photographs. That’s not workable, so we have to try to find some other way. The big issue is that decommissioning, as I understand it, is ready to happen; is ready to happen as part of a comprehensive agreement. It won’t happen if we don’t get a comprehensive agreement. Let’s try to make it happen.”
Paisley accused Ahern of having “double-crossed” him over the matter. Ahern last week had called for IRA decommissioning to be photographed as part of any new deal between the parties. The British and Irish governments’ joint proposals to break the deadlock were published last Wednesday and included provisions for photographs.
Ahern rang Paisley Monday night to apologize over the comments and point out that the Irish government’s position had not changed. However, the DUP has demanded that the apology be made public before it meets with the Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, later this afternoon in Hillsborough Castle in County Down.
“We have cut off, from today, all connections with the southern government in talks,” Paisley told reporters in Belfast, then, referring to Bertie Ahern, added, “As far as we are concerned, he is a man that can’t be trusted.”
Dermot Ahern said Tuesday: “I was as surprised as anyone else when I heard the [taoiseach’s] remarks because it wasn’t our view or the government’s view.”
Meanwhile, the Progressive Democrats have come in for criticism from republicans, who accuse the party of playing politics with the Northern peace process.
PD leader Mary Harney last week said her party would not sign up to any new deal in the North unless the IRA explicitly rejects “criminal activity.” She said that should would not stand over any deal that included the early release of Garda Jerry McCabe’s killers unless republicans made unambiguous commitments to reject criminality.
Sinn Fein rounded on Harney, accusing her of attempting to score cheap points at the expense of political movement in the North. Republicans said that last week’s IRA statement clearly indicated that the organization is prepared to stand down all its volunteers from all activities.
Sinn Fein’s Adams said Friday that as far as he was concerned the IRA statement was clear in this respect.