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Saturday, November 21, 1998 Published at 21:33 GMT

Unique chance for peace says Ahern

"A peaceful Ireland is a prosperous Ireland," said Mr Ahern

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, has declared that the Good Friday peace agreement represents the chance of a lifetime for the people of Ireland.

Highlighting the peace deal as the crucial achievement of his first year in office, Mr Ahern also restated his government's determination to make the agreement work.

Earlier in the day, the Irish premier said he was confident that key parts of the Good Friday peace agreement would be agreed upon in the next two weeks.

[ image: Mr Ahern was confident key parts of the deal would be ratified]
Mr Ahern was confident key parts of the deal would be ratified
Delivering the keynote speech at the end of his Fianna Fail party's annual conference in Dublin, Mr Ahern said: "The original title deeds of the Irish Republic belong not just to one tradition, but to all.

"The people of Northern Ireland want to enjoy the same bright future as ourselves. We must help them achieve that goal, not out of any selfish political interest but in a spirit of friendship and respect for difference.

"We cannot determine their future for them."

The Irish prime minister, who is currently enjoying record popularity in opinion polls as a result of the peace deal and Ireland's booming economy, added: "A peaceful Ireland will be a prosperous Ireland, and the spirit of friendship will finally prevail throughout the entire island.

"That is the dream within our grasp. And we are ready to grasp it."

But Mr Ahern conceded that the conception of Republicanism on the southern side of the Irish border had been "perhaps too narrow in the past".

And he maintained: "Today it must sustain not only an independent Ireland, but an agreed Ireland.

Determined to make deal work

"The Good Friday Agreement is a unique chance for all of us on this island, the best chance we will see in our lifetime.

"It is our determination to make it work and see the will of the people implemented on an inclusive basis.

"There can be no more ghettos, no more second-class citizens, no more trampling down of human rights and dignity, but also no more political or sectarian murders, no more punishment beatings."

Mr Ahern, who had talks on Friday with Northern Ireland First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and next week sees UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, also underlined the need for "a reformed and impartial policing service" in Ulster as "an absolute requirement for a better future".

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