Six days to save power-sharing in North as DUP ministers resign
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has today said time is limited to secure the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The North’s peace process is facing its most serious challenge yet after Democrat Unionist Party (DUP) ministers resigned en masse on the back of an IRA controversy.
There are now deep fears for the future of Stormont as the prospect of the UK taking over control of government affairs there heightened significantly.
This morning, Mr Kenny said he would “go to every limit” to prevent a collapse of the assembly, but said the “time is limited to get the show back on the road”.
As the political crisis raged, senior Sinn Fein strategist Bobby Storey was yesterday released from police custody following his arrest in connection with the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
Mr Storey, a former IRA prisoner, was released from Antrim police station at around 6.15pm last night.
The arrest of Mr Storey sent shockwaves through political circles both north and south of the border and plunged Sinn Fein into crisis.
His detention was also highlighted by unionist politicians as being illustrative of Sinn Fein’s alleged connections to criminal activity. He was one of four people being questioned by police in connection with the fatal shooting of Mr McGuigan in Belfast last month.
Speaking on RTE radio today, Mr Kenny said: “First of all, the responsibility of the two governments, the Irish and the British, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement, has always been to support, encourage and work with the parties who have been given the responsibilities by the people of Ireland to work out these problems.
“This is what politics is about, this is the challenge of politics.
“How many occasions every year, every day, do you hear a difference of opinion in politics?
“I agree that the approach, the mood and the environment is not good – but that’s why the opportunity is limited now in terms of time for people to sit down and work out their differences.
“The point is, I believe strongly that it is worth saving the executive and the institutions,” Mr Kenny added.
“We will continue to work with the parties every way we can to see that they have the opportunity to get this show back on the road.”
In a statement, Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, said: “The unconditional release of Bobby Storey underlines the contrived nature of the current crisis in the political institutions in the North.”
Today, he insisted this was still the case. He questioned whether those who contrived the crisis were playing “into the hands of the individuals who killed Kevin McGuigan”, and further asked “did they not play into the hands of those who do not want the peace process or the political process to succeed?”
Political leaders have just six days to return to talks or the Stormont administration will collapse.
The Northern controversy overshadowed the Fine Gael think-in in Adare, Co Limerick. Before the Fine Gael party gathered, Taoiseach Enda Kenny met SDLP representatives in Dublin in a bid to persuade them to vote for an adjournment of Stormont to allow crisis talks to take place.
However, the party did the opposite in a move that effectively called the DUP’s bluff.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said she still holds the view that the Provisional IRA, as a proscribed organisation, is not involved in criminal activity.
In her latest assessment of the status of the Provisionals, she has accepted that former members of the organisation are carrying out crime, but stressed they were acting without the control or sanction of the IRA.
But she said that if any intelligence emerged to indicate that the IRA was active in this jurisdiction, the gardai would certainly take action.