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17 March 2005

U.S., Irish Leaders Agree Violence Must End in Ulster

Ahern says Bush has good grasp of situation in Northern Ireland

By Kurt Pyle and Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondents

Washington –President Bush and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern are in agreement that “the violence and the thuggery and the criminality” must end for peace to occur in Northern Ireland, according to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Speaking with the press March 17, McClellan said the United States stood with Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in making these comments and in the sentiment that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) should disband.

McClellan said Ahern and Bush discussed the efforts of civil society leaders to end the conflict in a 50-minute meeting, noting that President Bush said he “strongly supports” these efforts, believing they “can show others around the world what is possible.”

McClellan also said that President Bush met the sisters and fiancé of Robert McCartney, a Belfast man allegedly killed by members of the IRA.  He said Bush thanked the women for their courage and told them that justice will prevail.

The press secretary noted that, “The sisters coming here sends the message that we are united with those who are working in the society to end the violence and bring about peace.”

McClellan also said the sisters had “united people around the cause of peace and the rule of law.”  He noted that the president said that the United States would do what it could to help to bring McCartney’s killers to justice.

Speaking to the press following his meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Ahern said there had been “constructive discussions” covering a wide range of issues, including Middle East peace efforts, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and other topics of interest to the U.S.-European agenda.

Bush, he said, “is extremely well briefed” on recent events in Northern Ireland, including the December 20, 2004, bank raid in Belfast blamed on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the murder of Robert McCartney.

“We briefed the president on where we think things are and where we hope to go in the months ahead,” he said, particularly after elections in the United Kingdom, expected this summer.

The sisters and fiancée of the late Robert McCartney also met with President Bush.  The prime minister said the women had stated that they “were not bitter people” but were seeking justice.  “They wanted to see that the rule of law and the legal system and the court system would get justice for them,” Ahern said.

President Bush, he reported, “stated that the American administration will do all that they can do.”

“[Bush] said he was glad they were here.  He was glad that he was able to show solidarity and support for them,” Ahern said, as well as a desire to end such tragedies in the future. 

The prime minister said the issues “that have been so crystally clear” in Ireland, “are equally so here.”  But, he added, the message he received in Washington is that it is “very clear" what remains to be implemented in the Good Friday Accord, and that if the parties are committed its implementation, “don’t keep saying that you’re committed to it and not implementing it.  Let’s bring it to an end and move on.”

“That’s what people are saying here and they are saying it very strongly,” Ahern said.  “I don’t think they want to see us back here again … saying that we have a few items outstanding,” he added.

A democratic peace in Northern Ireland “means the end of paramilitarism, end of paramilitary links, end of criminality,” he said.

Full implementation of the Good Friday Accord requires the IRA, including its political wing Sinn Fein, to honor “all its responsibilities,” Ahern said.  The Irish leader met with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Washington March 16 and said Adams informed him he shares that position.  But, the prime minister added, “We must see that thing delivered.” 

“A good way of showing that to everybody … would be to bring to justice the murderers of Robert McCartney,” Ahern said.

According to press reports, Gerry Adams met with President Bush’s Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss at the State Department March 16 but was not invited to the White House.

If there is no action on issues such as the McCartney killing, Ahern warned, “the icy reception of this week will turn into just a total exclusion, which is the opposite of what we want to achieve.”

The prime minister said the Irish government is prepared to meet with Adams again after the Easter holiday, “but we would like to see progress” on the McCartney case.

Ahern also said he had raised the issue of undocumented Irish citizens in the United States with President Bush, and he said the Irish people “acknowledge and appreciate … the [Bush] administration’s assistance on the issue of trade and investment, which is very important to the Irish economy.”


(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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