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Bertie Ahern: Gerry Adams never in IRA? Then I wasn't in Fianna Fail...

By Chris Kilpatrick

Former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has rounded on Gerry Adams, saying the Sinn Fein leader's denial of past IRA membership is akin to him claiming he was not a member of Fianna Fail.

Mr Ahern also hit out at Sinn Fein for its handling of the Mairia Cahill rape allegations and revealed his offer to participate in the Haass talks was snubbed.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr Ahern said he believed issues from the past would "continue to cause problems" for Sinn Fein.

"When I was in office, I used to have this running battle with Gerry Adams; that he was never in the IRA," said Mr Ahern.

"I'd say 'well, I was never in Fianna Fail either'. Those things don't serve him well.

"It's like me going out to make a speech to say between 1971 and 2011; I was never in Fianna Fail.

"We should be real."

Mr Adams has consistently denied allegations he was a member of the IRA.

Sinn Fein was accused of being unable to take criticism from their political rivals south of the border.

Mr Ahern said: "It's a delicate balance, I wouldn't get into the criticism game because obviously political parties see Sinn Fein at 26% and obviously wherever they see an opportunity, they hit them.

"But that's the order of the day, Sinn Fein are masters at doing it to others. They have to take that. I took it for years when there were big events or issues, people looked for small issues to have a go at you.

"Sinn Fein can't complain about that. That's politics."

Mr Ahern said he believed the controversy over how republicans handled Mairia Cahill's allegations would continue for some time.

"Normally what happens when a big political issue comes up in any other political party, you have to outline the full circumstances or you're called into a Dail committee to do it.

"They will say they outlined everything in the Dail but I don't think this is going to go away on them," he said.

"I think some of this seems to be internal and I wouldn't be surprised if issues from the past continue to cause problems for them [Sinn Fein]."

Mr Ahern revealed he offered to play a role in the Haass talks but was not approached until around a week before they collapsed.

"Our system seems to be when you're gone, you're gone," he added.

"If I ever could be of any use or help, of course I would.

"When Richard Haass was appointed, I was in America at the Clinton Foundation.

"Some people approached him and said if it was any use, I would be available.

"That offer was never taken up and the only contact I had was a week before it all collapsed, the day before Christmas Eve."

He said of the Haass talks on flags, parades and the past: "This work needs to be done.

"They said it. The parties in the north said it. Haass said it.

"The government said it, but it won't happen without nurturing and encouraging it.

"And if it doesn't happen, it bodes badly for the people of Northern Ireland."

The former Taoiseach said it was vital politicians in Northern Ireland worked together to resolve differences to prevent dissidents filling the void.

"They're small in number but vociferous in nature and they don't want to see peace or progress being made," he said.

"That is all the more reason why everybody should be anxious to see the outstanding issues being dealt with."

Quote

"When I was in office, I used to have this running battle with Gerry Adams; that he was never in the IRA.

"I'd say 'well, I was never in Fianna Fail either'.

"It's like me going out to make a speech to say between 1971 and 2011; I was never in Fianna Fail.

"We should be real."

- Bertie Ahern on Gerry Adams

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