Fresh crisis talks to start in Northern Ireland next week

This follows revelations that the murder of Kevin McGuigan may have been at the hands of the provisional IRA


The key actors in Northern Irish politics will meet next week for urgent talks amidst ongoing sense of crisis at Stormont.

It comes following the murder of Kevin McGuigan, a former member of the IRA, who was shot outside his home in Belfast’s Short Strand area. The Police Service of Northern Ireland indicated it was partly at the hands of the provisional IRA.

Unionist parties responded in outrage, arguing that if true it would make Sinn Fein’s position in the cross-community executive at Stormont untenable.

Already the Ulster Unionist Party has announced that it has quit the executive, and ministers in both London and Dublin have held a series of discussions with the main actors about how to address the latest crisis. First minister Peter Robinson failed in his attempt to seek an adjournment of the Northern Irish Assembly to provide space to consider how best to progress.

Issuing a statement yesterday, a spokesperson for the prime minister noted that he had spoken with the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and both were agreed that “the current situation in Northern Ireland is serious and without urgent progress there is a real threat to the stability of the devolved institutions”.

As a result of the discussions, the UK government has confirmed that the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, will next week “convene urgent, intensive and focused cross-party talks, involving the parties engaged in the negotiations that led to the Stormont House Agreement”.

“The purpose of the talks”, the spokesperson was will be “to secure full implementation of the Agreement and to deal with issues arising from the impact of continued paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.”

Welcoming the announcement of talks, Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, pledge that his party would enter them on the basis of its “electoral mandate” and its “commitment to democracy and peace.”

“What is required now from everyone involved in these talks”, McGuinness argued, “is leadership, including the British and Irish governments.”

For the Alliance Party, its leader and justice minister, David Ford, warned that the talks “need to be a genuine attempt to move beyond the seemingly endless cycle of crisis after crisis, which”, he argued, “is damaging the delivery of government and eroding public confidence in the political institutions”.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood likewise welcomed the talks but noted that they had to be the “only show in town” and observed that the UK government “must not have any understanding front or back door on any issue with any party, be it DUP on suspension or Sinn Fein on the rule of law.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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