Nesbitt says ‘no trust’ due to SF stance IRA does not exist
UUP leader says he needs clarity on PSNI reference to IRA command structure
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt: his party has resigned from Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive and is forming an opposition over claims the Provisional IRA still exists. Photograph: PA
Mr Nesbitt, who has put pressure on the Stormont administration following his decision to withdraw his party’s Danny Kennedy from the Executive, said there can be “no trust when Sinn Féin take their current position that the IRA do not exist”.
“If Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness, or preferably both, said the same thing about the IRA (as Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable George Hamilton) and admit they are existing, that would start building trust.
“If they said the IRA exist, but do not exist for the old reasons, that would be a step,” Mr Nesbitt told RTE’s Morning Ireland on Friday.
The UUP leader said while he was aware individual members of the IRA were “still alive and above ground” he did not realise the organisation still had a command structure, as referred to by the chief constable.
“I have not had clarity from the Chief Constable or the Secretary of State about what that means, but those questions need answering.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers is due to meet Government Ministers in Dublin next week to determine if the collapse of the Stormont power sharing institutions can be prevented.
The DUP has indicated it is prepared to “act unilaterally” to seek the expulsion of Sinn Féin from the Northern Ireland Executive because of the alleged involvement of IRA members in the killing of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan.
Behind-the-scenes contacts involving the Dublin and London governments and the North’s parties are to continue over the weekend to establish if there is any way of rescuing the Executive and Assembly.
A senior DUP source said if there was to be any chance of retrieving the situation, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams must shift from his stance of insisting PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was wrong in his assessment the IRA still existed and that some of its members were involved in Mr McGuigan’s murder, albeit without the sanction of the IRA leadership.
He said the two governments may also have to initiate talks to address this problem and the other issue threatening Stormont, welfare reform. It is expected Ms Villiers and Mr Flanagan will consider if fresh all-party talks led by Dublin and London could help to find a resolution of the crisis.
Mr Flanagan said on Thursday he remained “of the strong view that the interests and welfare of the people of Northern Ireland are best served by an inclusive and fully functioning powersharing Executive”.
The decision of Mr Nesbitt to withdraw Mr Kennedy from the Executive put pressure on the DUP to follow suit. However, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said there would be no “knee jerk” reaction to the UUP exit.
Ms Villiers will meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday to discuss the political crisis that followed the killing of Mr McGuigan.