Ahern 'must clarify Real IRA reports'

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte has said that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern still has many questions to answer about alleged contacts between his Government and the Real IRA after the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte has said that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern still has many questions to answer about alleged contacts between his Government and the Real IRA after the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Mr Ahern has denied the allegations, but newspaper reports said his former Northern advisor, Martin Mansergh, contacted a Belfast priest shortly after the August 1998 attack in an effort to open talks with the paramilitary organisation.

Some reports also suggested that a ceasefire deal was negotiated in return for the removal of round-the-clock surveillance on senior Real IRA members.

Mr Ahern is due to make a statement to the Dail on the matter later today amid continuing opposition pressure to clarify the situation.

The Taoiseach has already flatly denied any contacts between the Government and the Real IRA either before or after the Omagh bombing, but Mr Rabbitte clearly believes there was some truth to the media reports.

"At the very same time as the Dail was being reconvened to put through emergency legislation to deal with the Real IRA, these contacts or indirect contacts were going on," he said.

"We need to have clarified once and for all what exactly was happening, what was the purpose of these contacts, what were their character, were they carried out at the behest of the Taoiseach or with his knowledge?"

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