Ahern accuses Mayhew of using a colonial governor style approach


THE Fianna Fail leader has accused the Northern Secretary of a "patronising colonial governor style approach" and a "failure to show any empathy" with the nationalist community in the North.

Mr Bertie Ahern also proposed that a senior Cabinet minister be given full time responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs because of the amount of time the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs would have to devote to the EU presidency.

He sharply criticised the approach to Northern Ireland of the Democratic Left leader. Mr De Rossa, and warned the republican movement against the strategy of the "Armalite and ballot box".

Speaking at a weekend conference of Ogra Fianna Fail, the party's youth wing, Mr Ahern was applauded when he said: "The patronising colonial governor style approach of Sir Patrick Mayhew has been a consistent source of aggravation, and his failure to show any empathy with the nationalist community is in stark contrast with the valuable contribution made by his predecessor, Peter Brooke.

"I regret to say it, but the British government have, by their ill advised tactics and strategy, so far thwarted the potential of the peace process to bring about negotiations for a deep and lasting settlement. Latterly, the process has been managed entirely in the party political interests of the government at Westminster, not in the interests of peace in the island of Ireland."

Referring to the Irish Government, Mr Ahern said Northern Ireland affairs should be the full time and exclusive responsibility of a senior Cabinet minister for at least the next 18 months.

He said the Irish presidency of the EU would impose "onerous responsibilities" on the Tanaiste.

But he stressed that the job should not be given to the Minister for Social Welfare, Mr De Rossa. "The leader of a minor party like Democratic Left, who has almost no relevant Cabinet responsibilities in relation to Northern Ireland, should not be playing any prominent role in Northern Ireland policy. In January, he travelled North to promote his party's support for an assembly or convention, contrary to Government policy. As someone with a known anti nationalist position, he helped to undermine confidence in the Government."

On the IRA, he said: "A stopstart paramilitary campaign cannot be resorted to every time there is a difficulty in the way. We are prepared to walk the hard political path with the nationalist people in Northern Ireland of all political persuasions. But we in this party will not have any part of a paramilitary based strategy of Armalite and ballot box that spells potential disaster for the whole country. Whatever anyone thinks of the last 25 years, a line must be drawn under them for good."

Mr Ahern said the IRA's decision to end its ceasefire had represented a "serious breach of faith". He said it defied "all political logic" to destroy seven years of hard work for peace by the Sinn Fein leadership.