[Sinn Fein]

15 February 1999

McGuinness responds to Sunday Times claims

Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has responded to comments attributed to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in today's Sunday Times.

Mr. McGuinness said:

``I am most concerned at the comments attributed to Mr. Ahern in today's edition of the Sunday Times. I have now been in direct contact with An Taoiseach and he has assured me that these comments are inaccurate and that they do not reflect the position of the Irish government. Mr. Ahern made it clear that he had not said, as was reported, that Sinn Fein should be barred from the Executive and he also told me that, in the interview with the Sunday Times, he had made it clear that there are no preconditions in the Agreement.

``Significantly, Liam Clarke, the Sunday Times journalist, in his report deliberately chose to omit these comments and An Taoiseach's observation that the agreed mechanism for addressing the issue of decommissioning is General John De Chastelain's Independent Commission.

``Mr. Ahern has assured me that he stands by the Agreement as negotiated and agreed on Good Friday and is opposed to any renegotiating of the Agreement or any parking of the process. There are no preconditions to Sinn Fein's entry to the executive in the Agreement which we all signed up to on Good Friday. The Good Friday Agreement needs to be implemented. It cannot be rewritten, renegotiated or re-interpreted.''

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