05 February 2006

Ahern defends President after Paisley attack


05/02/2006 - 20:36:47

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern tonight said it was “deeply regrettable” that Democratic Unionist leader Reverend Ian Paisley had accused President Mary McAleese of being “dishonest”.

In a personal attack on the President during an address to his party faithful in Belfast, Mr Paisley said he did not like Mrs McAleese and called on her to show respect for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

A spokeswoman for the President tonight declined to comment on the remarks. But a spokesman for the Taoiseach said the criticisms were regrettable, insisting that no-one had done more than the President to help build bridges between communities in the North.

“It is deeply regrettable that these remarks were made,” he said.

“Nobody has done more than the President to reach courageously and imaginatively to all communities in Northern Ireland, or to acknowledge in a public way the very considerable progress which has been made in policing in Northern Ireland.”

The controversy comes hours before politicians from all sides gather at Hillsborough Castle for negotiations in a bid to restore devolution.

Addressing the DUP party conference on Saturday, Mr Paisley said he did not like the President and called on her to show respect for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

And in unscripted comments which were greeted by laughs from his party faithful, Mr Paisley said: “Now I do not like the President of the Republic of Ireland. I don’t like her because she is dishonest.

“She pretends to love this province and she hates it.”

And the DUP leader also said: “The President of the Irish Republic who refuses to enter a police station in Northern Ireland should respect the police of Northern Ireland.

“She should only enter Northern Ireland under the same terms as every other visiting head of state and she should cease attacking Northern Ireland.”

Mr Paisley also attacked the President’s security arrangements when she travels to the North, claiming she changed her car before visits.

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