26 March 2006

Ahern ready to serve with SF: McDowell

Sunday Independent

26 March 2006

JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell believes that Bertie Ahern will go into government with Sinn Fein after the next election - if that party gets enough pivotal seats to make them Dail kingmakers.

He says Sinn Fein will attempt to subvert democracy by using its massive financial resources - the proceeds of crime - to try to put itself into power at the next election.

In an extensive interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr McDowell, says it makes political sense for Mr Ahern to look at the Labour Party as an alternative government partner, if Fianna Fail and the PDs don't get the numbers required. He described Mr Ahern's approach as "basic ground politics".

In that event, the PDs would be open to a coalition with Fine Gael, but there would be ideological and political difficulties with the Labour Party, which would have to change before the PDs would share government with them.

Mr McDowell says he is conscious that he and Mary Harney are taking most of the flak for the Government, because crime and the health services are such hot issues.

But he is adamant that the Tanaiste will make substantial improvements, particularly in A&E before the next election - and possibly within the next three months.

He says voters will see the benefits of the Criminal Justice Bill, currently going through the Oireachtas, together with the delivery of the promised 2,000 extra gardai by 2007/2008, and the new garda reserve force.

At the end of a week in which the minister apologised to FG's Richard Bruton for comparing him to the Nazi propaganda minister, Dr Goebbels, and withdrew a jibe about Dublin rioters being Green Party kind of people, Mr McDowell said he was relieved to put it behind him.

Asked if keeping Sinn Fein out of government was still a valid reason to vote PD, given the Taoiseach's assurance that he would not go into government with Sinn Fein, Mr McDowell said: "If Sinn Fein got 12 seats in the next Dail, and if they were pivotal seats, which represented the balance of power, they would be - to use Martin McGuinness's phrase - kingmakers.

"Whatever people say in advance about what they would or would not do, doesn't correspond with what happens afterwards."

On the prospect of Sinn Fein in government, Mr McDowell said: "SF remains a party ideologically committed to the IRA. I believe the IRA is in possession of a massive amount of money and it intends to use that money for the purposes of the Provisional movement.

"Those purposes now - post 9/11, post Jiihadist terrorism - are to get power by political means. The Army Council of the IRA still exists and the funds that the IRA put in are still in place.

"Their resources are very substantial. They are available for the subversion of democracy (through SF promoting itself during an election). They are one of the wealthiest organisations."

Asked about the possibility of the PDs entering a non-FF government, he said: "It depends on how the numbers stack up. The PDs are always in the business of making sure their seats count in terms of implementing their policies. In the past we had an electoral pact with Fine Gael."

He said Labour has to make some fundamental choices about itself. "Are they in the Michael Foot phase, or are they Tony Blair/Gordon Brown? But he has no problem with the Taoiseach trying to win over the Labour Party.

"The Taoiseach said his preference would be for a PD/FF government - and I believe him - but if that didn't happen he would do business with Labour.

"I think its just basic ground politics."

He is very aware that, in this pre-election period, he and Mary Harney are the ministers in the firing line.

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