Interesting punch-up in the Dail last night that does not yet seem to have hit many of the papers:
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin led off with an attack on the Taoiseachs motives for making the accusations in the first place, getting in a personal dig at Ahern first:
He has a neck trying to label any other political party with the criminality tag when one looks at the daily unfolding reality in respect of his political party.
Ó Caoláin went on to accuse him of acting out narrow party motive:
Everybody knows that we represent competing parties not only in respect of general elections but of all other electoral endeavours in this State. It has become ever more apparent that with the realisation that Sinn Féin presents a real and substantial challenge to the Taoiseachs party at the polls in this State, he has moved increasingly to what I see as a situation where he seeks to misrepresent Sinn Féin intent and tries to re-draw the contemporary history of the achievement of a new political dispensation on this island, the end of armed hostilities, the peace process and all that has flowed and has yet to flow from it.
After some heckling from Defence Minister Willie ODea, the taoiseach finally got in his reply:
I understand why Deputy Ó Caoláin is looking around for an angle, which in this case is that the reasons are to do with party politics. If I had wished to fight his political party in a party political way, I certainly would not have done what I have been doing in recent years, such as doing everything possible to bring his party into the centre by ignoring all kinds of things and by trying to convince the DUP recently and the UUP for years of the benefits of working with Sinn Féin.
He went on to recount the political capital hed spent in trying to convince others that Sinn Féin were serious about their side of the peace process bargain:
I have tried to convince them of the security of doing so. I have tried to convince Presidents Bush and Clinton and President Prodi and others to put money into Northern Ireland to help peace and reconciliation. If I had only been interested in a political fight, I would not have taken those actions. Before we began taking those actions, the Deputys party was a party with 2% support, but now it has a strong political mandate because people on all sides of this House, from the Labour Party to Fine Gael to Fianna Fáil to the Progressive Democrats to the Green Party, all worked to try to bring Sinn Féin in.
Then he went for the ‘killer blow’:
The Deputy must understand that things must be equal. I refer to the kind of tactics in which some of his friends engage. In recent days a man was taken to a lay-by, shot in both hands and suffered a broken jaw. The reason for this assault is not known but it was carried out by the Provisional IRA. An 18 year old received gunshot wounds in both hands in an incident in Seaford Street in east Belfast, responsibility for which lies with the Provisional IRA. A punishment attack was carried out on a 19 year old man. He was shot in both hands and it is believed the Provisional IRA was responsible. The other day, a 19 year old man was shot in both ankles in an alley in Serbia Street, Lower Falls, and it is believed the Provisional IRA was responsible, and blah, blah, blah.