The Government is to urge the United States not to exclude Sinn Féin from the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington despite the IRA being blamed for the Northern Bank robbery.

And it has emerged that the Government will not be backing a Fine Gael motion criticising the republican movement when it is debated in the Dáil this week.

The developments come a day before the Cabinet discusses the report of the International Monitoring Commission, which blames the IRA for the Northern Bank raid in Belfast last December.

Speaking before leaving for the US, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said the IMC report may cause some difficulties in the peace process.

However, he said the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has made it clear that he is opposed to any sanctions being imposed on Sinn Féin.

The Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, has criticised what he said were mixed messages from Irish Government ministers.