Spanish bomb attacks
Asked for a reaction to speculation this morning that Al Qaida might have been responsible for yesterday's bomb attacks in Madrid, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that as we had stated last night, we believed this was a matter which was best left to the Spanish authorities to assess. We had no reason to second-guess their judgement and we were content to leave it up to them. Obviously, if we could provide any assistance, we would do so. The PMOS added that Denis MacShane would be travelling to Madrid today to take part in the demonstrations there later this evening. Asked if the assistance we were offering to Spain related to intelligence, the PMOS said that we never commented on intelligence issues. Asked if any British policemen were being sent to Madrid, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware.
Asked for an update on Northern Ireland following the Prime Minister's meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday in Dublin, the PMOS said that, contrary to what some commentators had been suggesting, we were not going to let the process drift. Both Prime Ministers had signalled that they would be stepping up the pace of the review process after the St Patrick's Day celebrations and that they, themselves, would become directly involved. As they had said last night, we had gone through a situation in which tens of questions that had had to be addressed had been whittled down to just two. First, were Unionists prepared to share power with Republicans if the IRA stopped its activities? We had received indications from both Unionist parties that the answer to that was yes. The second question was whether the IRA, as well as loyalist paramilitaries, were prepared to stop their activities. It was clear that both issues needed to be addressed urgently. Asked how soon the Independent Monitoring Commission might publish its report, the PMOS said that it was entirely a matter for the Commission. However, we, together with other parties, had indicated that we would welcome it if they brought forward the publication sooner than May.
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