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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 10:28 GMT
Ahern hopes devolution back soon
Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern wants to see devolution restored in Northern Ireland
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said he wants to see NI devolution restored as soon as possible.

Mr Ahern said an Independent Monitoring Commission report on IRA activity at the end of January would be crucial.

If this verified the IRA had ended all activities and got rid of all its weapons, he said he and Tony Blair would try to start all-party talks.

"That will hopefully lead to the restoration of the assembly and executive," Mr Ahern said.

He said the earlier this could happen "the better".

"The reality is we have moved Northern Ireland from a place of daily killing. It is now a more stable place.

"That was done on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement... parties sharing power together on a cross-community basis, working to the agenda of the Good Friday Agreement for the betterment of the people of Northern Ireland," the taoiseach said.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since 2002, and Mr Ahern said getting it and the other institutions up and running again was more important to him than a united Ireland.

"Of course I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime. I don't know whether I will or not.

"But what is more important is that we see peace and stability and people working together in Northern Ireland," he said.

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Ahern was asked how hopeful the two governments were of securing a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"All we can do is use our powers of persuasion on the strength of the case," he said.

The taoiseach also said he hoped the British parliament would pass legislation on so-called on-the-runs.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness urged the British government to "lift the suspension and bring back the political institutions".

The two governments "need to bring forward a plan in early 2006 to see the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in the north", he said.

Devolution 'challenges lie ahead'
23 Dec 05 |  Northern Ireland
PMs seeking to restore devolution
11 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland

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