Page last updated at 05:50 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 06:50 UK

Army council 'no issue' - Ahern

Bertie Ahern
Mr Ahern has stepped into the row over the political deadlock at Stormont.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has stepped into the row over the political deadlock at Stormont.

Mr Ahern said the existence of the IRA army council was not a precondition to the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont.

He said the DUP was "well aware" of the British and Irish governments' commitment to the deadline for such a transfer.

"It should have been long done by this stage," he said.

The Executive has not met in three months after the issue caused a political impasse between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

In an interview for BBC NI's Hearts and Minds programme, Mr Ahern also spoke of his admiration for former DUP leader Ian Paisley.

He praised him for "resisting the temptation" to make the disbandment of the IRA army council an issue during the St Andrews negotiations.

Mr Ahern said he understood unionists needed to feel "certainty" in order to establish trust with republicans and felt the IRA perhaps needed to spell out its intentions more clearly.

But he said he did not believe the organisation would ever say it would never exist in any role.

He repeated his desire for the IRA to evolve into a "commemorative" organisation but said the devolution of policing and justice was "never predicated" on the disbandment of the IRA army council.

"All of this was known when the agreement was made. It's not only now or in the last year that we discovered there's a thing called the army council," he said.

He cautioned against Sinn Fein and the DUP "escalating" the situation and said both parties could resolve their differences through direct dialogue.

The former Taoiseach also spoke of his disappointment at the Republic's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty which he felt had happened because the document was "too complicated" for people to understand.

He said he believed the Irish government would have to re-run the referendum.

He also rejected any suggestion of misconduct in his financial dealings and said he hoped some day to be able to clear his name.

Hearts and Minds will be screened on BBC Two, Thursday, September 25th at 7.30pm.

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