Peter Robinson rejects 'cowardice' accusation

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First Minister Peter Robinson criticised Sinn Fein and rejected claims he was showing cowardice as a politician, on 19 May 2014.

Deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness had previously accused Mr Robinson of "cowardice of the worst kind" for not speaking out about alleged UVF involvement in recent violence and racist intimidation in east Belfast.

Mr Robinson said actions of the IRA during the Troubles showed they had been involved in "cowardice of the worst kind ".

The first minister listed a series of attacks including the Enniskillen and La Mon bombings.

He said he would not "take lectures from anyone about cowardice ".

Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan asked about the minister's policy regarding recent racist and sectarian attacks in east Belfast.

Mr Robinson said he rejected claims in the media and elsewhere that the attacks were concentrated in the east of the city.

"Their GPSs needs to be recalibrated," he said.

The first minister said the attacks were concentrated in south Belfast.

He said he condemned any organisation involved in attacks, "including the UVF".

Mr Robinson also called for an entire meeting of the Executive to discuss welfare reform.

In reply to a party colleague's question about about the "blocking" of welfare legislation by Sinn Fein, Peter Robinson laid out the DUP's approach to the matter.

He said he had asked for independent experts to draw up a set of financial figures.

"We are ready to talk, we are ready to discuss, we are ready to move forward with the issue and I trust that Executive colleagues will be as well," the first minister said.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy identified a possible drawback with the introduction of 20 mph speed-limit zones in residential areas.

"Enforcement would be a major resource factor for the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and they have a concern about that," he said.

The minister explained that the speed limit zones were aimed at the protection of vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly and cyclists.

Justice Minister David Ford said he believed the police had acted "entirely properly" in their handling of the arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Michaela Boyle of Sinn Fein noted that the police had contacted the secretary of state ahead of the arrest of Mr Adams.

"Does it not smack of old habits from an old era?" she asked.

Mr Ford said that perhaps Ms Boyle did not understand the role of the secretary of state in this area, "which is entirely different from my role".

Replying to a question from Bronwyn McGahan of Sinn Fein, the justice minister said the costs of policing the loyalist protest at Twaddell, in north Belfast, "now exceed £9m".

Mr Ford said the community had been put at greater risk because police resources had been diverted.

"It really is time that the Twaddell camp went away," he said.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill answered questions on a range of issues, including the common agricultural policy, animal cruelty and the definition of an active farmer.

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