“it is clearly important that this Ard Fheis is held as soon as possible”

While the point-scoring between the Unionist parties continues, RTÉ reports on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s speech at the Annual Liam Mellows Commemoration, the full text is available here. As well as announcing that 16 Moore Street is to be declared a national monument, he adds a reminder of what should be obvious to most by now – “[Sinn Féin] now know that the path to shared government in Northern Ireland passes through a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis at which the policing issue is definitively and successfully addressed.”From the Taoiseach’s speech

I would like to conclude my remarks today by looking not to the past, but to the immediate future.

I believe that 2007 can be a year as historic as any in our past. For the first time in 400 years, since the Flight of the Earls and the beginning of the Ulster Plantation, there can be agreement between all of the representatives of all the people of this island.

The St Andrews Agreement sets out a clear direction, with clear milestones, for how this can be achieved. I welcome the developments since we met in St Andrews. While nothing is ever simple in Northern Ireland, I think everyone can see we have a clear basis for bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion.

It has been a long and at times frustrating journey. But the obstacles that stand in the way of final resolution are very, very few.

I call on all concerned to meet the challenge of the St Andrews Agreement and to take political responsibility for the future. Do not be persuaded to delay taking the decisions that are now necessary if Northern Ireland is to settle down and be at peace with itself.

I welcome the Sinn Fein commitment to address the policing issue. I know how sensitive this is for them. But they now know that the path to shared government in Northern Ireland passes through a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis at which the policing issue is definitively and successfully addressed.

Given the St Andrews timeline it is clearly important that this Ard Fheis is held as soon as possible thereby creating a new environment where policing in Northern Ireland, which since the Patten Report has been reformed comprehensively, is endorsed and supported by all.[added emphasis]

Just a couple of thoughts to add. The Taoiseach leaves room for Sinn Féin to respond with an argument that they will hold that Ard Fheis… just as soon as the demand for a confirmed date for devolving Justice and Policing is met.. while the reference to “the policing issue is definitively and successfully addressed” might be aimed at the suggestion that there was a “possibility that Sinn Féin might hold an ardfheis to approve an interim or conditional position on the PSNI”