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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 March 2007, 16:20 GMT
Devolution 'needs financial deal'
Dermot Ahern with Hillary Clinton and Bertie Ahern in Washington
Bertie Ahern and Dermot Ahern chat to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said an economic package for Northern Ireland is necessary in order to get the assembly up and running.

Mr Ahern said his department was meeting Treasury officials on an almost daily basis over a financial deal.

Speaking on The Politics Show, Mr Ahern said Irish money would only be put into Northern Ireland if it also benefited people in the south.

The governments want a power-sharing executive in place by 26 March.

Mr Ahern outlined how the Irish government was prepared to help any devolved institution at Stormont.

"We have already indicated very clearly, and in a very upfront way, what we are prepared to do," he told the BBC.

"We are not going to put our money from the Republic into Northern Ireland unless there is a benefit, a mutual benefit, but a benefit particularly for our tax payers in the Republic.

"There is no doubt that an economic package has to be available.

"If the politicians do put their difficulties aside and do go into a devolved government, I think it is incumbent on both governments, particularly the British government, to give them a fair wind in order to allow that executive to bed down."

Direct rule

Mr Ahern was speaking in Washington where politicians gathered for St Patrick's Day celebrations.

His comments come a day after Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain warned that the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland was not a done deal.

Mr Hain said there was more negotiating to be done and warned there would be consequences if devolution failed.

If a power-sharing executive is formed, it will have four DUP ministers, three Sinn Fein, two UUP and one SDLP.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since October 2002, amid allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont. A subsequent court case collapsed. Direct rule has been in place since that date.



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