Friday 30 September 2016

Northern Ireland political crisis talks to begin at Stormont

Published 08/09/2015 | 10:01

Ms Villiers will be joined at Stormont House by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan
Ms Villiers will be joined at Stormont House by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan

Crisis talks led by the British and Irish governments are due to begin at Stormont today.

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Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is expected to convene cross-party negotiations to resolve the current difficulties facing the region's badly divided political institutions.

The powersharing Executive has been under threat of collapse since police said IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast last month.

On Monday the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said there would be no further routine meetings of the Executive until the latest crisis was resolved.

Read more: DUP calls halt to Stormont business

If the latest round of crunch talks, expected to last for four to six weeks, are unsuccessful, First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson has warned he would pull his ministers out.

The Ulster Unionist Party withdrew its only Executive minister Danny Kennedy in August claiming it could no longer trust republicans.

Ms Villiers will be joined at Stormont House by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

She is expected to outline the Government's view of the situation at Stormont during a speech in the House of Commons before travelling to Belfast.

Read more: Burton refuses to give rebel TDs a vote on divisive FG election pact

Police believe Mr McGuigan was killed by individual members of the Provisional IRA in revenge for the death of prominent republican Gerard "Jock" Davison in May.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton has insisted the IRA is not back on a war footing but disclosure that the organisation still exists has rocked the political establishment.

The killings have overshadowed wider issues at Stormont, where divisions over the implementation of controversial welfare reforms have already plunged the devolved Assembly into financial peril.

On Saturday, Ms Villiers said the British Government would legislate on welfare if the parties in Northern Ireland could not reach agreement.

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