Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson denies claim of crisis at Stormont

Media captionPeter Robinson said "everyone should cool their jets" amid talk of a crisis

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has denied a claim by Sinn Féin that there is a crisis in the power-sharing Executive at Stormont.

Mr Robinson admitted there were difficulties to be resolved but said "everyone should cool their jets".

He was speaking hours after Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said there was a political crisis and the DUP was allowing extremists to dictate its policies.

Relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin have been deteriorating for months.

The two biggest parties at Stormont have had public disagreements over the union flag dispute, loyalist violence, and Mr Robinson's decision to shelve plans for a new peace centre on the site of the former Maze prison.

'Big problems'

They have also clashed over Sinn Féin's support for a republican parade through Castlederg last month, when two IRA bombers were honoured. Mr Kelly made a speech at the ceremony.

Mr Robinson told a news conference on Wednesday: "I've been involved in a number of crises over the years and I have to say our present circumstances don't have that feel about them at all.

"Of course there are big problems, and thus it has always been and we have to address those issues, it's important that we do.

"There are matters where Sinn Féin are disgruntled about issues, we (the DUP) are disgruntled about issues. What we've always done in the past is talk about those matters."

Asked if the power-sharing institutions at Stormont were safe, the first minister said: "I don't get any sense at all in the conversations I've had that anybody has any intention or mind to bring down the institutions, that's just not the case."

He added: "I just think everybody should cool their jets at this stage and try and get on with the business of trying to resolve problems rather than create them."

Twitter row

Mr Robinson added that he was concerned by suggestions that he was refusing to talk to Sinn Fein.

The DUP leader said he met Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for discussions lasting 90 minutes earlier on Wednesday and would continue to hold such meetings in the future.

Meanwhile, Mr Kelly has been criticised by other parties at Stormont for a message he posted on his Twitter account about the Maze prison escape.

The Sinn Féin MLA was one of 38 republican prisoners who broke out of the high-security County Antrim prison on 25 September 1983.

During the breakout four prison officers were stabbed, including James Ferris, who died of a heart attack.

'Sickening'

Six other prison officers suffered gun shot wounds or stabbings in what was the biggest ever break-out from a UK prison.

On Wednesday, Mr Kelly tweeted: "Happy 30th anniversary of the Great Escape 1983 from Long Kesh H Blocks to all those involved."

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said: "This comment made via Twitter is both shameful and sickening and a blatant attempt to glorify terrorist activities of the past.

"I am appalled that an elected representative has sought to make light of a situation that would have caused pain to many."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, said his party shared "the anger and the frustration of the many people who are outraged" at the tweet Mr Kelly posted.

"However, we are committed to doing what is right for Northern Ireland and for future generations, and we will not be deterred or deflected in that task," the UUP MLA added.

The DUP MLA Gregory Campbell described the Maze tweet as "disgraceful and grossly insensitive to the innocent victims of that terrorist act".

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