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Tánaiste admits 'on-the-runs' controversy has 'derailed' progress in the North

Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil that talks on the contentious issues of flags, parades and the past were “derailed” after the release of John Downey.

Eamon Gilmore.
Eamon Gilmore.
Image: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has said that the UK government should uphold all agreements it made with the Northern Ireland Assembly in relation to the peace process.

Gilmore was responding to a query raised by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today.

Gilmore said he was “encouraged” by the fact British prime minister David Cameron said he does not want to “unpick” previous arrangements. He noted his “good relationship” with Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, saying they “talk regularly”.

However, Gilmore did admit to being “disappointed” by the “insufficient progress” made in Northern Ireland since the talks chaired by Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan failed to reach an agreement upon their conclusion on December 31 last.

He said he was initially “reasonably satisfied” by the progress being made among party leaders, but noted this was “derailed” when John Downey, the man accused of carrying out the IRA bombing in Hyde Park in 1982, walked free from court in February.

Overdue talks

He was one of a number of “on-the-runs” to receive a letter from the British government stating they were no longer wanted by police.

At the time, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said that his party was unaware of the agreement between the Irish and British governments.

Adams noted that the DUP rejected the  recommendations made by Haass and O’Sullivan, stating: “Running away from the proposals wont achieve anything”.

He said he wanted talks on the issue to resume before May’s European elections as otherwise they would run into marching season in Northern Ireland.

Gilmore said that a meeting between himself, Villiers, Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was “overdue”.

“Our approach will be to try and get things back on track as quick as possible after St. Patrick’s day,” he added.

‘Telling porkies’

Also at Leaders’ Questions, People Before Profit TD Joan Collins asked Gilmore what Ireland is doing to help stop multinational companies paying low levels of tax.

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Last week it emerged that tech giant Apple avoided paying $850 million in Irish tax between 2004 and 2008.

Gilmore said that the government was participating in OECD negotiations in order to deal with the issue internationally.

“Ireland cannot claim tax profits that are properly attributed to other jurisdictions,” Gilmore said. He also defended Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, describing it as “transparent”.

Collins said that people listening to Gilmore’s reply would have “lost the plot”.

“Someone is telling porkies here. Yourself and Apple should get together and come up with an answer,” she added.

Read: Richard Haass says some in Northern Ireland are being ‘unrealistic in the extreme

Read: Coveney ‘not surprised’ by claims of Apple’s $850m Irish tax avoidance

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Órla Ryan

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