MINISTER for Justice Dermot Ahern has confirmed statements published on the WikiLeaks website on Monday that the Government believes Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and his party colleague Martin McGuinness had prior knowledge of the infamous Northern Bank raid.
Asked on his visit to the Louth County Hospital whether the statements were true, Minister Ahern said: "That was the government's belief at the time, yes."
When asked whether that position had changed he replied: "No."
The Blackrock man said: "If you remember immediately when the bank raid happened the discussions that were going on with Sinn Fin were restricted dramatically by the Irish government on the basis of the information that we had that people were aware and had prior knowledge of these events.
"I can't go into the specifics but obviously governments are aware from intelligence in relation to these issues."
Asked whether he believed Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA Army Council, Minister Ahern challenged the Sinn Fin leader to answer that but expressed his belief that voters would make their own minds up regarding historical issues within the county.
"Well, I don't know that for a fact but obviously there is historical information in that respect but that's up to him to answer.
"There have been issues in this constituency such as Jean McConville and Tom Oliver for which people like Gerry Adams and others have not apologised for what happened.
"Obviously we've had a number of Disappeared and thankfully their bodies have been found and again they were issues which the IRA had hand, act or part in. I think it's important that people take retribution for that."
Asked whether he had any doubt whether Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness were aware of the robbery prior to it happening, Minister Ahern replied: "The bank raid was carried out by leading members of the IRA."
He also refused to give a definite opinion on whether he believed Mr Adams should be representing Sinn Fin in the next General Election in this constituency considering the cloud hanging over him.
He replied simply: "That's a matter for Sinn Fein."