Ahern glad to see return of Framework Document


The following is an edited version of the speech delivered by the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern.

THE setting of a date for all party talks does represent a breakthrough. For a long time, both governments, but particularly the British government, argued that there was no point in doing this, unless the unionist parties had agreed in advance to attend.

The alternative view, which has now prevailed, was that those who were obstructing or boycotting the start of negotiations should be clearly identified.

It is now clear that the people, whatever their political persuasion, will not thank the parties who refuse to take part in peace negotiations unless their unrealistic preconditions are fulfilled.

I accept parties do have serious and genuine concerns about the existence of large arsenals, which will only be heightened by recent events. These concerns will need to be addressed in a serious manner at the start of all party negotiations and this is what we have always advocated.

The Mitchell principles and recommendations about confidence building measures come from a neutral source and have a lot of validity. I believe they will prove the best and least contentious way of dealing with many issues.

I welcome the renewed commitment of both governments to a lasting peace and comprehensive settlement on the basis of the fundamental principles in the Downing Street Declaration and the Joint Framework Document.

We are delighted that the framework document, after a year's absence, has finally reemerged. This is something we have strongly argued for.

While I note that in Paragraph 6 the two governments affirm the fundamental priority they attach to securing the easiest possible inclusive negotiations to address comprehensively all the relevant relationships and issues in an interlocking three stranded process, I am puzzled that in Paragraph 9, only the Taoiseach requires to be satisfied that the nature of an elective process has to be within the three stranded structure. I would like clarification on this, as adherence to the three strands is vital.

I would ask the IRA to give a full and unequivocal commitment at least equivalent to the definitive statement made on August 31st, 1994, that restores the integrity of the peace process and that it do so without reservations.

My party will then do its utmost to ensure that Sinn Fein is treated fairly and in a non discriminatory manner in relation to its participation in future talks and negotiations.

What has been agreed today by the two governments should have been done long ago. It is an indictment of the way in which the peace process was mishandled over a long period particularly by the British government, from the aftermath of the Framework Document to the publication of the Mitchell report.