Those seeking to link SF to crime should ‘put up or shut up’

Martin McGuinness complains about suggestions at Northern crisis talks at Stormont

(Left to right) Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Martin McGuinness, Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams arrive to speak to the media at Stormont in Belfast, as talks involving Northern Ireland’s five main political parties begin.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

(Left to right) Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Martin McGuinness, Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams arrive to speak to the media at Stormont in Belfast, as talks involving Northern Ireland’s five main political parties begin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has demanded that politicians who sought to link Sinn Féin to criminality should “put up or shut up”.

As all-party talks finally began at Stormont on Monday, Mr McGuinness took exception to what he portrayed as some unnamed politicians making a connection between Sinn Féin and paramilitary criminal activity.

Mr McGuinness said he had complained about such suggestions at Monday’s talks hosted by the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

“In other words I told them it is about time to put up or shut up,” said Mr McGuinness. “I am not going to be accused by others who are trying to besmirch the name of my party, particularly against the backdrop of the contribution [to peace and politics] that we have made,” he added.

“I am not putting up with this nonsense anymore,” said Mr McGuinness. “If people have information about a linkage between criminality and any political party in these institutions, then they need to go to the PSNI, they need to put it up on the table at the talks, they need to produce the evidence and the intelligence that they have that such activities are taking place.”

Irked nature

Despite the irked nature of these remarks, there was relief in Dublin and London that the political situation has moved from one of manoeuvring and posturing to actual roundtable discussions.

Both Mr Flanagan and Ms Villiers are also satisfied that there will be four full days of talks up to Thursday this week, with further negotiations in the weeks ahead.

The governments and the parties are attempting to deal with the fallout from the murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan and the police assessment that some IRA members were involved, and also with the deadlock over welfare reform. While on Monday the issue of paramilitarism was considered, the emphasis on Tuesday will be on welfare and finance matters.

Ms Villiers is on Tuesday expected to disclose the names of the three-member independent body announced on Friday and which by mid-October will provide a report to the talks on the status of the IRA and other paramilitary organisations.

Hospital

DUP leader Peter Robinson, who was admitted to hospital on Saturday following another health scare since his heart attack last May, attended Monday’s talks. Mr Robinson (66) was released on Sunday night. He said on Monday he had suffered a “bad reaction to some medication” which had been corrected and he was “feeling better already”.

He said parties must engage seriously right from the outset of talks. Mr Robinson said there had been some “grandstanding” at the first round of talks, but nonetheless there appeared “to be a level of realism about what needs to be done”.

Mr Flanagan expressed his satisfaction at the degree of engagement. “It is clear to me that there is a unity of purpose at the table now,” he said.

Ms Villiers said the talks were “focused and productive” with all parties committing themselves to “an intensive process aimed at dealing with the impact and legacy of continued paramilitary activity and securing the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement”.