N. Ireland Politics

UUP to consider leaving NI Executive

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
Image caption UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has said that the party will consider leaving the Stormont Executive

The Ulster Unionist Party has said that leaving the Stormont Executive is an option it will consider over the next two days.

Party leader Mike Nesbitt was speaking after meeting with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

"We need credibility if we are going to maintain these institutions of government," said Mr Nesbitt

"We need honesty and we need parties that are prepared to build trust with us."

Earlier the Democratic Unionist Party questioned Sinn Féin's participation in government after Northern Ireland's police chief said the IRA still exists.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan Sr.

The Stormont Executive "cannot be business as usual" if the Provisional IRA is still active, according to the Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

But Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams said the organisation "has gone away".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption George Hamilton said there was no evidence the Provisional IRA sanctioned Kevin McGuigan Sr's killing

Mr McGuigan Sr, an ex-IRA man, was killed in what police believe was part of a "fall-out" in republican circles after the murder of former IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison in May.

Police said an infrastructure exists at a senior level of the Provisional IRA, but that there is no evidence that Mr McGuigan's murder was sanctioned by that hierarchy.

Instead, it said some current and former members have been involved in violence "in the interest of personal gain or personal agendas".

Armed

But Mr Donaldson said the DUP would "consider very carefully" the police assessment.

"The very fact that there is an IRA leadership that remains in place is a matter of concern," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"We cannot have a situation where we have a party in government linked to an organisation that continues to have a capacity to kill people."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Gerry Adams said the IRA "has gone away" and was not involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan

The Provisional IRA ordered an end to its armed campaign in 2005.

Mr Donaldson said that had now changed.

"We were told those days were gone, but we cannot ignore where we are now.

"We have political decisions we need to make."

Credibility

The DUP is due to meet the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers on Thursday to discuss the political consequences of Mr McGuigan Sr's murder.

Mr Donaldson said that if it was established that former PIRA prisoners were involved in the murder, then Ms Villiers "must ensure their licences are revoked and they are returned to jail".

Image caption Dolores Kelly said she wanted to hear "something different" from Sinn Féin than "absolute denial"

The SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said the police, security agencies and the British and Irish governments had questions to answer on the status of the Provisional IRA.

"Sinn Féin have to make clear their commitment to entirely peaceful and democratic means," she added.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said Mr Adams' denial over the IRA's existence "won't wash".

Mr Nesbitt added: "Gerry Adams' claims lack any credibility. Even his own current and former supporters recognise that."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the PSNI chief constable had confirmed what his party had believed for some time, "that the Provisional IRA and its command structure continues in place to this day".

"The chief constable's comments will have sent a chill down the spine of very many Irish citizens," he said.

"This is an exceptionally serious moment."

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