Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Ahern calls for dialogue with paramilitaries ahead of peace deal anniversary

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern passes between portraits of former deputy first minister Martin McGuiness (left) and former first minister Ian Paisley during a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly Plenary (Liam McBurney/PA)
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern passes between portraits of former deputy first minister Martin McGuiness (left) and former first minister Ian Paisley during a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly Plenary (Liam McBurney/PA)

Former Irish premier Bertie Ahern has highlighted the importance of continuing engagement with paramilitary organisations in the wake of the shooting of DCI John Caldwell.

Mr Ahern’s comments came from Monday’s British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) to discuss the ongoing significance of the Good Friday Agreement approaching its 25th anniversary.

The BIPA brings together legislators from Westminster and the Oireachtas parliament in Dublin.

The 63rd plenary meeting held in Stormont on Monday focused on the ongoing significance of the Good Friday Agreement leading up to 25 years since its ratification.

Police chief welcomes weapon decision
Mr Ahern called for renewed engagement with paramilitaries (Niall Carson/PA).

The former Taoiseach referenced the recent murder bid on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in Omagh as he highlighted the continuing threat posed by paramilitaries a quarter of a century on from Northern Ireland’s historic peace accord.

DCI Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after being shot several times at a sports complex last month.

“One area I’d just like to stress to this assembly is that work around the engagement with paramilitaries,” he said.

“It is a fact of life in this divided society that there is unfinished work to do with dealing with paramilitaries – we’ve seen an event recently in Omagh.

“It is a fact of life that paramilitaries and the structures of paramilitarism are still there. There should be a process of continuing dialogue with these groups.”

Mr Ahern said that those involved with the creation of the Good Friday Agreement had not expected that 25 years on, paramilitary violence would be a matter that had not concluded.

“I’m not in the business of condemning it, I’m in the business of asking people to help and to work and resource so that these issues can be dealt with,” he added.

“Whether it’s community policing, whether it’s new structures of neighbourhoods, but it is an area that has been left for quite a considerable time. There is a necessity for the resources, and the effort and the commitment of politicians to deal with this issue.”

British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly Plenary
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (centre) during a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly Plenary at Stormont (Liam McBurney/PA)

The decommissioning of arms from paramilitary organisations was a major matter of contention in the negotiations.

“Decommissioning was an issue that we struggled with, probably the one issue, if I had it all over again, I would have done differently to how we did it,” he said.

“It dragged out so long that it was painful and divisive.

“But most of the issues have worked their way with good stability. Peace has worked.”

Despite its problems, Mr Ahern praised the accomplishments of the Stormont Assembly during its operation.

“The fact that these institutions have been struggling for so many times has not been great but hopefully that will change in the short-term,” he said.

“It’s very impressive what has been achieved when these institutions have been up.”

Mr Ahern’s integral role in the manifestation of the Good Friday Agreement was highlighted by a number of delegates, with fellow speaker British diplomat Sir John Holmes recounting how Mr Ahern’s return to negotiations immediately following his mother’s funeral was decisive in bringing the Ulster Unionist party back to the table in a tense period of the discussions.