The Omagh bombers should not link their ‘‘vile deeds’’ to the actions of the leaders of the Easter 1916 uprising, Bertie Ahern said today.
At a service in Dublin commemorating the 85th anniversary of the revolt, Mr Ahern said that 30 years of republican violence had intensified bitterness and division between communities in Northern Ireland.
He also added that, while there could be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, urgent issues - such as policing and decommissioning - needed to be resolved by June.
Mr Ahern said: ‘‘It is high time that we stood up to those who with malice aforethought try to besmirch the brave and idealistic leaders of 1916 with the vile deeds of those responsible for the carnage at Omagh or of any other tiny group that have no mandate and no prospect of any for their lunatic actions.
‘‘Those whose continued paramilitary activity is in straight defiance of the overwhelming vote of the Irish people need not come here seeking the protective mantle of the 1916 leaders, for they have no right to it and they bring no honour to this place by appearing in it.
‘‘You cannot reject the will of sovereign people while claiming to champion it.’’
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, reputed to be the political wing of the renegade Real IRA group responsible for the 1998 car bomb in Omagh which killed 29, held an Easter Rising parade in Dublin last weekend.
Today, a united Ireland could only be achieved ‘‘peacefully and by agreement between the two parts of this island’’, Mr Ahern said.
‘‘We have come to understand that we will never unite Ireland unless we make a genuine effort ... to unite Protestant, Catholic and dissenter.
‘‘A valid criticism of republican violence over the past 30 years is that it further intensified bitterness and division.’’
Mr Ahern said he was confident that, despite ‘‘many stumbling blocks and difficulties’’, the peace process would survive the upcoming British general election ‘‘broadly intact’’.
But he added: ‘‘A basis needs to be settled on which the entire community can support the new police service in Northern Ireland, reformed in keeping with Patten.
‘‘It is in everybody’s interests that armed organisations should wither away, as they are wholly redundant to the advancement of political aims, and that further early progress be made in putting arms beyond use.’’
He described Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble’s decision to ban Sinn Fein ministers from attending North-South ministerial meetings as ‘‘wrong and unsustainable’’.