N. Ireland Politics

DUP 'will take action' if no crisis solution is offered by Cameron, says Foster

Arlene Foster of the DUP
Image caption Arlene Foster said there "will not be business as usual" when the assembly returns on Monday

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will take action next week if the government does not provide a solution to the crisis at Stormont, it has said.

On Tuesday, First Minister Peter Robinson urged the prime minister to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The crisis was sparked by the murder of an ex-IRA man and the Ulster Unionists' subsequent exit from the executive.

Arlene Foster said the DUP was prepared to take "our own action" if the government did not intervene.

"We will be taking unilateral action next Monday," the finance minister said.

"We will give them space the rest of this week to come forward with their own solution, but if nothing happens between now and next week we will be taking our own action."

Rejected

The assembly is due to return from its summer recess next Monday, and Mrs Foster said it would "certainly be very different" after a turbulent month in Northern Ireland politics.

After meeting with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers on Wednesday, Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey said the party again made clear its opposition to any assembly suspension.

"Martin McGuinness made it very clear to the secretary of state that any suggestion that the British government should suspend these institutions, Sinn Féin will be very, very hostile to that," he said.

"Further to that we will not be in any way cooperating with the concept of self-suspension.

"We believe that people out there want all the parties to ensure that these institutions succeed and more importantly that they deliver for the communities."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was up to the Northern Ireland parties to sort out the crisis.

"I believe we can sort it out if there's political will and we certainly have the will to sort this out, because we don't want to collapse anything, we want to fix everything," he said.

In August, police said they believed Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan Sr.

Image caption The DUP met David Cameron on Monday and Peter Robinson (centre) urged him to suspend the assembly

Chief Constable George Hamilton said the paramilitary organisation still has structures in place at a senior level but added there was no evidence that hierarchy had sanctioned the killing.

That was rejected by Sinn Féin - it said the IRA had left the stage after ordering an end to its armed campaign in 2005.

But the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said Sinn Féin's denial that the IRA existed made it "impossible to do business with them" and has left the executive.

Mrs Foster said her party would give the government time and would watch how "the matter will progress over the next few days".

Negotiations

"We will see what happens - we're not going to pre-judge what happens from the government, but come Monday it will not be business as usual.

"We will not engage in normal politics."

Downing Street has said Prime Minister David Cameron recognises the gravity of the situation at Stormont and has asked Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to hold "urgent" talks with the parties.

Mrs Foster said she hoped discussions could begin immediately, and said she believed the talks would take the same format as last December's Stormont House Agreement negotiations.

Image copyright AP
Image caption David Cameron recognises the gravity of the situation at Stormont, Downing Street has said

"There is no reason why talks can't take place next week or the following week.

"There are two main issues - the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and dealing with paramilitary activities."

Implications

But Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said the odds of any talks proving to be successful were slim.

"If these talks do fail I'm afraid the assembly will be bust," he said.

"The implications of failure are extremely high."

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