Talks in Dublin and London today on Stormont crisis

Robinson says republicans not unionists should pay price for IRA misbehaviour

Secretary of state for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers is holding talks in Dublin with Charlie Flanagan and Frances Fitzgerald. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.

Secretary of state for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers is holding talks in Dublin with Charlie Flanagan and Frances Fitzgerald. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.

 

High-level talks are being held in Dublin and London today to determine if mechanisms can be devised that would protect the Northern Executive and Assembly from collapse.

DUP leader Peter Robinson is meeting British prime minister David Cameron in Downing Street this evening. In Dublin, secretary of state for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers is holding talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

The Irish and British governments are considering initiating all-party talks that would address the political difficulties triggered by the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton’s assessment that IRA members were involved in the killing of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan, and that the IRA remains in existence.

Both governments are also considering the value of reactivating the Independent Monitoring Commission to adjudicate on the status of the IRA.

Crash powersharing

Ulster Unionist PartyMike NesbittDanny Kennedy

The governments could take some comfort from the fact that Mr Robinson was fiercely critical of Mr Nesbitt and the UUP, while also stating that “this was not the time to flee the battlefield”.

“Whatever we do we must not allow republicans who precipitated the crisis to end up benefiting from it. It should be republicans and not unionists who pay the price for the misbehaviour of the IRA,” Mr Robinson said in an article in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph.

“Playing party politics in these highly dangerous circumstances is irresponsible,” he added.

“Doing it in a ham-fisted manner is both irresponsible and illogical. Now is a time for cool heads, clear thinking and a steely resolve to ensure that democracy and the rule of law triumph over terror and murder.”

Party interests

“Exiting the field of play is not a tactically clever first option. It can only ever be a last resort. Punishing your own community for the wrongs of others and rendering yourself irrelevant is hardly a brave, bold or sound strategy,” he said.

“Having fled dramatically, the Ulster Unionist Party has taken the pressure off republicans,” he said. “Now they have marginalised themselves, what do they do for an encore?”

Mr Robinson said the coming period would “not be business as usual at Stormont”. He said that regardless of whether the murder of Mr McGuigan was approved by the IRA leadership, “this kind of activity is unacceptable and inconsistent with membership of the Executive”.

Mr Robinson also indicated he may seek to have Sinn Féin excluded from the Executive.

Mr Nesbitt said it was “remarkable” that the First Minister would not agree with him “that enough is enough and take a principled stand”.