McGuinness refuses to rule out resigning over Stormont impasse

Deputy First Minister considering stepping down which could cause a snap election

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “It is a serious problem. It is a crisis, it needs to be resolved.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “It is a serious problem. It is a crisis, it needs to be resolved.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has refused to rule out resigning over the Stormont House impasse.

Mr McGuinness is said to be considering stepping down which could cause the collapse of the Executive and a snap election.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr McGuinness said he was not responsible for the speculation but did not rule out his resignation.“I made it clear as Sinn Féin leader that I would discuss these matters out with the national leadership of Sinn Féin and in that eventuality to put to them my view of what should happen,” he said.

“I am not going to go in to it any further at this stage except to say we have a problem. It is a serious problem. It is a crisis, it needs to be resolved.”

Mr McGuinness was speaking at a meeting of the British-Irish Council where he declined twice to rule out his resignation.

Wider east-west relations were also discussed as Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan met his British counterpart Philip Hammond ahead of the council meeting.

Ireland would be supportive of British efforts to negotiate a new deal within the EU but would not be anxious to see treaty changes, Mr Flanagan told him. Mr McGuinness said he was committed to solving the issues that remain.

“My focus is on resolving outstanding difficulties and seeing the Stormont House Agreement implemented. It brings with it a lot of pain but we do accept it is the only way forward in terms of the huge economic challenges we face purely because of policies that are being driven from London,” he said.

“But I am in a resolution mode, I am a problem-solver and I think what we have come through over the course of the last 20 years over the historic decisions many of which I have been involved in I think we can find a way forward to the present difficulties.”

The deal agreed last year dealt with several issues such as parades, flags, emblems and the past.

However, subsequent disagreement from Sinn Féin over planned welfare reforms have threatened to unravel the entire agreement.

Mr McGuinness was joined by the First Minister Peter Robinson who said the agreement must be implemented in full.

“It is my view that unless the Stormont House Agreement is implemented there is no future for the Assembly and Executive,” he said.

“So it becomes an imperative as far as I’m concerned that within the next few months we can resolve the outstanding issues and move forward as we agreed last December.”

The possibility of a British exit from the EU was top of the agenda at the council meeting.

Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times he had assured Mr Hammond Ireland would be as helpful and supportive as possible to UK efforts to reform the EU as long as the goals are realistic.

“I made it clear that Ireland will be constructive in getting improvements in the many areas of common interest for the two countries including measures to promote economic growth and trade which are an important British concern,” said Mr Flanagan.