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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Bertie Ahern challenges Sinn Fein to explain report findings 'party remains influenced by IRA'

Warned that Ireland may be heading back to the infamous period of political instability in the early eighties

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Niall O'Connor

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has challenged the Sinn Féin leadership to assertions in the report of a belief that the party remains influenced by the Army Council.

Mr Ahern said he welcomed the findings that PIRA is no longer recruiting or involved in armed procurement, adding that he saw no reason why the parties in the North cannot continue their talks on power sharing.

However, the ex-Fianna Fáil expressed alarm at the assertion in the UK report of a belief that Sinn Féin remains associated with the Army Council.

“I suppose there is the one line in it that is interesting [is the belief] that the leadership still comes from the Army Council and it moves from the Army Council to Sinn Fein and the IRA. I thought we’ve moved beyond that but maybe you’d best ask Sinn Fein what the answer to that question is,” Mr Ahern told reporters.

Asked if he believes Sinn Fein is still being “influenced” by IRA, Mr Ahern replied:

“That’s what the report says.”

Mr Ahern made the remarks at the launch of a new book entitled ‘Power Play - The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin’ by journalist Deaglún De Bréadún.

He said it is essential that all stakeholders work to bringing an end to any remaining PIRA structures.

Mr Ahern also said efforts are required to combat crime on the border region.

“I suppose the guards have already pre-empted the issue regarding the crime on the board and the moneylaundering and the diesel issues...that is criminal activity, it’s nothing to do with anyone who is committed to the political system and the democratic system and hopefully it can be challenged because anyone involved in that can have anything to do with the democratic system of politics.”

Mr Ahern also warned that the country may be heading back to the infamous period of political instability in the early eighties, which saw three general elections held in 18 months.

He said the recent pattern of opinion polls has shown little change in the fortunes of political parties, bar Sinn Féin, which he says has seen its support fall by about 5pc.

“I turned 5pc around in one TV programme, so these things can change a lot,” Mr Ahern said.

“But if you look back at the last seven or eight polls, those figures don’t change very much - maybe go up and down slightly,” he added.

Asked about the prospect of a return to a long period of instability such as the early eighties, Mr Ahern said:

“If you were to take the poll, as the last poll, or any of the recent polls, that’s what they say.”

He said the difficulty for the parties on the left is that if they don’t transfer to each other “they are going nowhere”.

However, Mr Ahern said that parties’ standings can change quite often and that the outcome of the election is extremely difficult to call.

On the issue of Fianna Fáil, Mr Ahern said party leader Michéal Martin has made it clear that the party’s intentions is to maximise its number of votes.

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