Ahern encouraged by Paisley comments

THE Government yesterday said Ian Paisley’s willingness to share power with Sinn Féin if it abandoned criminality and paramilitarism was a “sign of how far the peace process has progressed”.

A Government spokesperson said Dr Paisley’s comments indicated a growing acceptance of the peace strategy pursued by the Irish and British Governments.

Speaking on Sunday, Dr Paisley said he could not envisage a situation where the North would have direct rule for ten years and said he would be willing to enter a devolved government with Sinn Féin, if the party abandoned criminality and insurrection.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday said he was encouraged by the comments but pointed out they were consistent with the position the DUP had argued during negotiations last November and December.

“I said before December 8 that I believed Dr Paisley was up for a comprehensive agreement and I’m glad now again he has confirmed what he told me privately,” Mr Ahern said.

Dr Paisley, who is 79, made the unlikely comments during an interview with RTÉ. He said the prospect of direct rule for 10 years was “utter nonsense” and added he was prepared to countenance power-sharing with SF if there was “no arms, no crime, democracy only”.

The conciliatory comments stand in marked contrast to the sabre-rattling ‘sackcloth and ashes’ speech made by Dr Paisley in December - widely seen as one of the predominant reasons the negotiations were aborted. They are also softer in tone to the stance adopted by both governments after the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney.

Mr Paisley has made no secret of his ambition to become First Minister in a devolved Northern Ireland government. If the process were to enter a period of stagnancy, his wish may not be realised because of his age. It may also reflect a growing realisation within his party that Sinn Féin is unlikely to be excluded from any agreement, notwithstanding the widespread condemnation which the party has faced.

There is growing belief, however, within both Governments, that the current impasse is unlikely to be resolved until 2006 at the earliest.

Recent statements from the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern suggest Sinn Féin will need to make a comprehensive statement renouncing criminality before full negotiations can resume.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd