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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:41 GMT
Ahern in pledge at Somme centre
Bertie Ahern pictured on a visit to the Somme heritage centre in Newtownards
Bertie Ahern said he was visiting the centre in solidarity and friendship
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said he wants to remember World War I and the 1916 Rising sensitively.

Speaking during a visit to the Somme Heritage Centre near Newtownards, he said there was a shared history on the island that he wanted to recognise.

Later, Mr Ahern addressed a lunch hosted by the Institute of Directors.

He said he wanted to see devolution restored in 2006 and believed this was achievable if all IRA paramilitary and criminal activity ended.


Mr Ahern was welcomed to the Somme centre by Ulster Unionist councillor and chairman of the Somme Association Ian Adamson.

He was presented with a number of gifts and invited to become an honorary member of the association.

The taoiseach said he was visiting in solidarity and friendship.

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine welcomed Mr Ahern's visit to the centre.

"The taoiseach's visit, I think, is just a follow-up to things he's been involved in, in relation to the First World War," he said.

"The First World War is very much a shared experience and I think the taoiseach, for some time now, has been involved in programmes both in Belgium and in Ireland."

Policing issue

Speaking to the Institute of Directors in a north Down hotel, Mr Ahern said the time had come for the policing issue to be addressed and resolved.

The constitutional question is now settled and a united Ireland can only be brought about with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, he added.

The institute's chairman, Michael Maguire, paid tribute to Mr Ahern's contribution to the peace process.

Mr Ahern's other engagements included a visit to Poleglass to view the work of Creative Crosslinks, a cross-community youth project funded by the EU's Peace II programme.

The taoiseach reaffirmed the Irish government's support for a further extension of the programme, set up to build economic renewal and social integration in areas most scarred by the Troubles.

The current Peace II programme began in 2001 but runs out next year.

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