Martin says suspension of Assembly ‘lesser of two evils’

Fianna Fáil leader accuses Sinn Féin of ‘duplicity and dishonesty’ over North crisis

Sir Edward Carson’s statue seen behind a road sign at Stormont on Thursday in Belfast. A political crisis has erupted following the murder of Kevin McGuigan  last month. Photograph: Getty

Sir Edward Carson’s statue seen behind a road sign at Stormont on Thursday in Belfast. A political crisis has erupted following the murder of Kevin McGuigan last month. Photograph: Getty

 

The leader of Fianna Fáil has said the suspension of the institutions in Northern Ireland to allow comprehensive talks represented the “lesser of two evils” in the current crisis.

Michael Martin made his comments as the First Minister Peter Robinson warned the Northern Executive and Assembly could collapse as early as Thursday because of the controversy over the status of the IRA.

The DUP, along with the British and Irish governments, supports the adjournment of Assembly business because the alternative - unless the British government were to suspend Stormont - is the collapse of the power-sharing institutions.

“We are facing the collapse of the entire edifice with the resignation of certain parties from the Executive or the potential suspension of the institutions to allow for comprehensive talks to resolve all outstanding issues.

“From our perspective the lesser of two evils at this stage would be to suspend the institutions to allow those comprehensive talks under the jurisdiction of both (the Irish and British) governments as guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement...to inject urgency and to initiate such comprehensive talks,” Mr Martin said.

He said they had reached this position reluctantly but said, it appeared that the central issue was one of trust between the parties: “there will be a need for new mechanisms to rebuild and restore that trust.”

He accused Sinn Féin of “duplicity and dishonesty” in relation to the current crisis.

Mr Martin both governments needed to “reverse the hands-off approach” of recent years and engage strongly in the crisis and proposed the establishment of a body similar to the International Monitoring Commission.

Stormont was thrown into deeper crisis on Wednesday after three senior republicans, including the Northern Ireland chairman of Sinn Féin, Bobby Storey, were arrested in connection with last month’s murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan.

Mr Storey remained in custody on Thursday.

He said the murders of both McGuigan and Gerard “Jock” Davison had “fundamentally altered” the nature of political discourse in North Ireland.

“Those who pulled the triggers fundamentally changed the ballgame in terms of the emergency that we’re currently in”.

Earlier Sinn Fein’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said she had made clear in a meeting with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, that “any proposal to adjourn the Assembly is not acceptable to us”.

“We have advised them that their job, their role, is to stand by the Good Friday Agreement and the democratic institutions.

“The very idea that...a squabble within unionism between Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson or indeed political opportunism and posturing, whether it’s North or south, can bring down democratic institutions is entirely unacceptable and it would be an incredibly dangerous precedent to set,” she said.

“I can’t imagine any other democracy in the world...any scenario in which a contrived argument, such as this is, could lead to the suspension or indeed the adjournment of democratic institutions”.