16 March 2006

US FUNDRAISING DECISION IS DISCRIMINATION SAYS REYNOLDS

IAIS

03/15/06 12:23 EST

Former Irish premier Albert Reynolds has told the Irish American Information Service that the decision by President Bush's administration to again place fundraising restrictions on Sinn fein was discriminatory.

Mr Reynolds was largely responsible for convincing the republican movement to dedicate itself to a solely political path when he was Taoiseach back in 1994.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been granted a visa but denied the right to fundraise in the US. He is invited to the White House for the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

It is the second time within recent months that Mr Adams has been denied a fundraising opportunity.

Mr. Reynolds said that that the US administration's decision to restrict Sinn Fein's fundraising activities was "a case of clear discrimination" since no such restrictions were placed on the other Northern Irish parties.

He also told the IAIS that he was extremely doubtful DUP leader Ian Paisley would ever share power with republicans.

"Paisley has said he will never give reason for 'Lundy' to appear on his headstone. I am not optimistic that we will see him lead his party into a power-sharing administration with Sinn Fein," the former Taoiseach said.

Gerry Adams has also attacked the US administration for what he called its "partisan behaviour".

"Not only does this go against the principles of equality and inclusion that are at the heart of the peace process, it is being used by those opposed to the Good Friday Agreement".

"It's quite remarkable, I don't understand why this restriction is being put on me. I've been invaluable to the White House, and I don't understand why I can't walk around the corner and go into a restaurant," Adams said at a press conference, referring to a fundraising event planned in Washington tomorrow.

"I'm surprised and bewildered as to the rationale and the purpose" of the fundraising ban, Adams told journalists.

"The issue is that the administration has chosen to treat Sinn Féin differently than it treats the other parties, and the peace process is based upon equality, and based upon inclusivity," Adams said.

"And I find it quite remarkable, given the huge advances that have been made by Irish Republicans in Ireland last year and the IRA putting its weapons beyond use," Adams said.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain are also taking part in events.

Earlier today, Mr. Hain ruled out a DUP suggestion that Sinn Féin should be barred from a power-sharing government in the North.

During Question Time in London's House of Commons, Mr Hain told Ian Paisley that sooner rather than later his party needed to talk to Sinn Féin, the second largest party in Northern Ireland.

On the need to restore devolved government, Mr Hain said this year was decisive and that all the party leaders would be facing some hard choices.

Responding to Mr. Hain's remarks, Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty MP said: "The politics of exclusion are the politics of failure and this is the message which we have been pressing home for well over ten years."

"Those of us who wish to see progress made in the coming weeks can only hope that today's intervention by Peter Hain is the start of the two governments ending the pandering to the DUP and getting back onto the agenda of the Good Friday Agreement."

"It has long past the time when Ian Paisley should have been debunked of the notion that there was any possibility of political progress which did not involve Sinn Féin. That reality has been stark for many years. If the DUP are going to live up to their responsibilities and start delivering for the people who elect them in a power sharing arrangement, then such an Executive will involve Sinn Féin. Any notion which the DUP may harbour of pressing ahead towards some sort of majority unionist rule is a fantasy and simply will not happen," Mr. Doherty said.

"Today's remarks by Peter Hain must now be backed up with decisive action from the two governments through injecting momentum into the process and setting a speedy timeframe for the lifting of suspension and the restoration of the political institutions."

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