United Kingdom
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Press Conference With Irish Taioseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern
10 Downing Street
London, England
September 19, 2001

TONY BLAIR: Good morning everyone. First of all I’m very pleased to welcome the Taoiseach again here to Downing Street and we’ve had discussions of course on the peace process in Northern Ireland, how we take it forward, we’re both exactly of the same mind that the proposals that we put to the parties before the summer break at Weston Park remain the right way forward, and we very much hope in the time that remains in order to get these proposals agreed, that the parties come together around them. We’re convinced that is the right way forward in Northern Ireland. Secondly, obviously, as you would expect we discussed the recent terrorist atrocity in the United States, we are absolutely of one mind on this also and our determination, both, to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and that we set an agenda for the international community to attack the apparatus of mass international terrorism at every single level we can. We will obviously have an opportunity also at the European Union Council meeting on Friday to revisit both these issues together where we’ll meet in the margins of that summit too. But, once again, Bertie thank you very much for coming here and thank you also for your continued support, and co-operation, and help in the joint project we both wish to see, which is that there is a peace process in Northern Ireland that is sustained for the future and gives people the hope, the prospect, indeed reality, of a decent and peaceful future in Northern Ireland.

BERTIE AHERN: I want to thank the Prime Minister in what is an enormously busy, both domestic and international schedule, before the European Council meeting on Friday, of giving us an opportunity of having these discussions this morning. On the two issues, on the Northern Ireland, the Weston Park initiative, what we concluded there to move on the outstanding issues and move to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement remains our target. We believe that we can do that, we need the support of the parties to come in behind what we concluded in that week of discussion, and I hope that we can achieve that, we continue to do all we can in the days immediately ahead to try to do that. The Secretary of State and Minister, Brian Cowen, will continue in the period immediately ahead to work to try to achieve that, and our own dialogue with the parties which we have been engaged in over the last week or so. On last week’s terrible atrocities in the United States, the Dail, our parliament, yesterday unanimously stated unequivocally our support for the defeating of international terrorism, to coming to the root of where these people operate and the terrible crimes that they perpetrated against all humanity, we remain firmly determined to support the initiatives taken and very much welcome the initiatives that have been taken for the broad international coalition to come behind the efforts to try to root this out, and we look forward to discussing both our issues on Friday at the European Council.

MEDIA: There’s a perception, if I could bring the two subjects together, that perhaps what you’ve had to say on the Middle East terrorism is a lot tougher than what you had to say about republican terrorism, and can I ask, in view of what’s happened between the Israelis and the Palestinians this week, whether you think this really is the moment for Sinn Fein and the IRA to decide which side they’re on. Either they’re with you or they’re against you, and will be treated with the same toughness as bin Laden and his supporters?

Tony Blair: This point that I have made clear is that it is precisely because we want to leave terrorism and violence behind in Northern Ireland, whether from the republican quarter or the so-called loyalist quarter, that we want this peace process to succeed and if we look at what’s happened in the Middle East over the past year, I think we can see the dangers of what happens when the peace process falters or fails. So it is precisely in order to make sure that we offer people a way of resolving their differences politically, and democratically, that we want to take the steps that ensure that terrorism and violence have no place in Northern Ireland. And I think the single most significant thing that has been happening in the past few days in how we respond to the terrible events in America, is the growing support, the gathering force, of the coalition against international terrorism, and I think that means that right around the world the effects will be felt, not just in the measures that we will take, but also in any group that has previously held an attitude that terrorism is somehow an acceptable way of resolving grievances, will find themselves very isolated indeed. Now I think that is recognised by everybody and I see it is entirely consistent for us both to pursue the cause of defeating international mass terrorism, and to make sure that the peace process, whether in the Middle East or in Northern Ireland, is pursued vigorously as well because both of them, both the action and the diplomatic and political way forward, have the same aim and that is that defeating terrorism and making sure we resolve any differences we have peacefully and democratically.

Bertie Ahern: Just very briefly, I think the, just to agree with everything the Prime Minister has said, but all our efforts have always been to get to the stage where terrorism stops, and that the issues about military groups or any kind of militarisation stops, and that we got on with people living peaceful lives and if that means that we can convince people and convince society away from that we can do that. But, obviously if there are people who don’t listen to that then they have to be defeated and that’s the issue on the international terrorism. If people are not prepared to listen, if they ignore, as these people have, UN Security Council’s resolutions and sanctions and everything else over the years, then people are left with no option but to try to defeat them and that is the issue.

MEDIA: Prime Minister and Taoiseach in the past, the events of the past week have put Northern Ireland into perspective. Do you feel that the parties in Northern Ireland now have the political will to make progress, particularly on policing, and more importantly probably on the guns issue?

Tony Blair: I hope they do. They certainly should do because I think we can see that the political process offers the only sensible way forward and let’s never forget, despite all the difficulties in the peace process of Northern Ireland and the number of times we’ve done these press conferences and held the meetings and discussions with parties, let’s never forget what has actually been agreed. We have agreed the basic constitutional principles, we have agreed the measures for equality and justice in Northern Ireland, the recognition of the national exasperation of a significant number of people in Northern Ireland, we have the framework there and that framework is basically supported and I think if any people have doubts about the agreement that we entered into, it is not doubts about the Agreement itself, but doubts about whether it’s going to be implemented. Now that’s our task, but you know, we have made huge and substantial progress. I hope we can now, on the issue of policing, on the issue of violence, and resolve the last remaining question so that we can move forward and so that those people, be they so-called dissident republicans or so-called loyalists, who are still wanting to engage in violence have been completely isolated and left with no political support whatever.

Bertie Ahern: I think the answer to your question is yes. I think the political parties are determined to see a full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, yet for six or nine months we’ve been faced with four outstanding issues. We spent months on end working to find out a resolution of those four outstanding issues, Weston Park gave us the way forward on those. I think there’s a growing support for those four initiatives that we put forward, we haven’t achieved them all yet, neither have they been fully rejected, and what we have to do now and it’s what we’ve been doing for the last few weeks, since the summer break, is trying to get people back on to what we were doing just before the summer break and I think we can achieve that because there is no other alternatives. We have discussed these up and down, but the good end of it is that when people look back over the last three years the Executive has worked well, the Assembly has worked well, the North South institutions have worked well and of course there are outstanding difficulties but like in any peace process you’re going to find difficulties, we might not get it totally right on first go around or there might be issues that weren’t fully worked out the first going round, but the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement with the work that we done in Weston Park is the only way forward, and I believe anyone who supports peace and justice, particularly after the events of last week and the events of the last number of years, people will want to be against going back to any kind of violence. So I do believe that political parties like ourselves reflecting on what we have done will support it.

MEDIA: Prime minister, can you outline for us what you hope to achieve in the next couple of days, with the swing through Europe and to Washington, and then back to Brussels?

Tony Blair: The most important thing is to demonstrate that the coalition against international terrorism not merely has support but that support is growing, that it encompasses nations in all continents, including Arab nations as well. That it has support of people of all faiths, and support of people of all democratic political persuasions, and I think there is a real chance of doing that. People have been both surprised and heartened by the sense in which the international community's coming together and recognising that it is right and necessary to pursue those responsible and bring them to justice for this terrible atrocity in America. But that secondly, we then need as an international community to sit down and work out in a systematic, clear-headed way, how we take action against every aspect of this new phenomenon of mass international terrorism. Because, as I've said many times before, that the limits now on the way that these people operate are not governed by any sense of morality at all. If they could have killed even more people in America they would have. The limits are merely technical and practical, and therefore what we have got to do is to remove their ability to operate practically and technically, so those two things, pursuing the people responsible and holding them to account, and then working out the right agenda for action and doing it on the basis of the broadest possible coalition of international support, that is what I see our role as. So obviously we're in close consultation with the US about the measures, the precise measures that we will take to make sure those responsible are held to account, but at the same time we and they and all our other colleagues round the world are trying to build this coalition of support that shows very clearly that people from every part of the world, every religious faith, every democratic political persuasion, are united in the fight against terrorism.


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