Saturday 22 October 2016

SF facing allegations that would be 'serious problem' for FG, insists Taoiseach

Kevin Doyle, Sam Griffin and Niall O'Connor

Published 23/10/2015 | 02:30

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says his party would have a "serious problem" if it was facing the same type of allegations surrounding Sinn Féin.

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The Fine Gael leader will personally propose a new joint authority to deal with cross-border criminality if talks aimed at saving the Stormont Executive recommend such a body is needed.

Mr Kenny and his Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald both sought to harden their line on Sinn Féin yesterday, two days after a report by the PSNI/MI5 claimed that members of the PIRA believe its Army Council sets the party's strategy.

Ms Fitzgerald said that Sinn Féin has questions to answer on foot of the report, and a separate assessment of paramilitary activity by An Garda Siochana.

The Justice Minister was asked whether she shared the concerns expressed in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin, that monies linked to criminal activities could be finding their way into the political system.

Ms Fitzgerald replied: "Of course it is critical that there is absolute transparency in relation to funding of all political parties and that clearly should be the situation and that is what we would expect to see.

"If there is any question of lack of clarity of where funding is coming from, that would raise the most serious democratic question."

However, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who tried to dismiss the PSNI/MI5 report as "mischief making", replied that the minister should be focusing on her work dealing with garda resources and rural crime.

"I happen to hold her in some regard as a fair minister; she should not fall into the trap of blaming Republicans on the Government and the State's failure to deal with issues which are affecting people across the State, not least in rural Ireland," he said.

The report found that PIRA members are directed to actively support and electioneer for Sinn Féin and that some are involved in criminality such as large-scale smuggling.

But Mr Adams insisted he didn't have to give anyone assurances about his party's funding streams.

"We're answerable to the electorate, our accounts are published, some other parties don't," he said.

"We could be into all of this back-and-forth, verbal retaliation - it's the election, that's what it's about. They obviously are going to try and exploit issues which they may see as advantageous to their cases."

Speaking in Madrid, the Taoiseach referenced a BBC 'Spotlight' programme which last year raised questions about the legitimacy of Sinn Féin's expense claims in the North.

"Let me say that if the Fine Gael party were involved in anything like has been alleged, well then we'd have a very serious problem indeed," Mr Kenny said.

"We've had Mairia Cahill speak out. We've had Paudie McGahan speak out, are these people not telling the truth? Are they not talking about the experiences they've had themselves?

"We've allegations of safe houses and sexual abuse by members of the Provisional IRA, some of are associated with the political wing of the party," he added.

The Taoiseach said he had an "open mind" about setting up a joint agency to deal with criminality north and south of the border.

Irish Independent

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