19 February 2006

Ahern attacks Adams' Ard Fheis speech

Sunday Independent

JOE O'MALLEY, DON LAVERY and ALISON BRAY

THE Taoiseach last night strongly rebutted Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams' criticism of the Government's planned military parade commemorating the Easter Rising - and effectively told the IRA to stop hijacking the Irish Army's title.

Mr Ahern told the terrorist group there was only one Oglaigh na hEireann - the Irish Army. The Taoiseach's hard-hitting words came in response to remarks made earlier by the Sinn Fein president at his party's Ard Fheis, on the prospect of the first military parade in 35 years to commemorate the Easter Rising.

Mr Ahern said: "The military parade on Easter Sunday will be a celebration of Oglaigh na hEireann, successors to the Volunteers, who serve a democratic State which is engaged, through the United Nations, in the search for global peace."

Mr Ahern went on to strongly attack SF/IRA's use of the title Oglaigh na hEireann, saying the attempt by the Provisional IRA to appropriate the title to their organisation was rejected by successive Irish governments.

"There is only one Oglaigh na hEireann - the Irish Army - who will take their rightful place in the parade to celebrate the legacy they have inherited," he bluntly told the Provisional movement.

Mr Ahern continued that the Proclamation of 1916 continues to have "inspirational power in our own time".

"In looking back to it and its continued resonance, we will commemorate not only the events of 1916, but also the achievements of the State which has evolved out of that revolutionary moment, and which looks forward to the peaceful reunification of the island on the basis of consent," he said.

He added Ireland's recent achievements include unprecedented growth and economic success that have improved the standard of living of people throughout "this sovereign Republic".

"Our membership of the European Union has been a key factor in helping us to achieve that success. We are now finally in a position 'to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts', as was stated in the 1916 Proclamation," Mr Ahern said.

The Taoiseach's robust statement followed criticisms voiced by Mr Adams at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis of the parade by the Irish Defence Forces.

Mr Adams said while he agreed with the Taoiseach's decision to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, he disagreed with the military role in the event.

"Is a military parade of two-and-a-half thousand soldiers the best way to do this? I don't think so." Instead, he suggested "an inclusive, civic and cultural celebration".

In his presidential address to party members, Mr Adams claimed the other parties had sold out Ireland to the multinationals, "the giants of globalisation". Ireland's destiny, he said, had been "handed over to the bureaucrats of the European Union".

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