Michael McDowell Misrepresented Content Of Sinn Féin Engagement with Irish government
Speaking today in Belfast in advance of tomorrows meeting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said:
"The Justice Minister Michael McDowell has misrepresented yesterdays meeting. Martin McGuinness and I did not agree that the Sinn Féin leadership must go away and reflect on the government's insistence that the criminality issue be dealt with.
On the contrary we argued that the government should not allow itself to be distracted from the difficult but necessary work needed to tackle all of the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement.
We asked the Taoiseach to stand up his accusations that the Sinn Fein leadership had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery. He failed to do this either during our meeting or in subsequent media interviews.
In the course of our discussions yesterday the Taoiseach agreed with us that the process needed to be based on the broad principles of inclusivity, equality and dialogue. The Taoiseach and we agreed that all the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement needed to be dealt with. It was also agreed that following on his meeting with the British Prime Minister we would meet again to continue with this work.
The Taoiseach said the government was opposed to sanctions. It is not good enough therefore for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to say that sanctions are primarily an issue for the British. The Irish government's stated opposition to sanctions obliges it to ensure that there are no sanctions. No one issue can be made a pre-condition. All matters are the collective responsibility of all parties.
We also rejected any suggestion that Sinn Féin was involved in criminality or that we have any special obligation to tackle any issue. We are opposed to criminality of any kind.
Finally, reluctant though I am to engage in recriminations, I want to deal with Michael McDowell's role in all of this. The Progressive Democrats have made no constructive contribution to the peace process. Minister McDowell's focus is on staying in power in this or any future coalition. It is a matter of concern that the Taoiseach is allowing Minister McDowell to lead for the government on these important issues."ENDS