SF 'has no fear of an election' if talks on North fail
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has warned that there can be no preconditions ahead of cross-party crisis talks in the North.
The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister said that if the talks fail, or do not proceed, then the next logical step would be a snap election.
He was speaking as one-to-one meetings between the Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments were held in Belfast yesterday.
"I do think that as we enter into these discussions it is very, very important that we do so on the basis of no preconditions," said Mr McGuinness. "And I want to see, and am working for, talks to take place with a view to a successful outcome.
"But if talks are not going to take place and if talks do take place and there is no successful outcome, then, in my view, the next logical step is to an election - and that is my very firm and strong view. Our party has no fear whatsoever of an election."
The latest crisis to beset the North's faltering administration erupted after last month's murder of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan.
Police have said current members of the IRA were involved in the shooting in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison in Belfast three months earlier.
The disclosures about the IRA have heaped pressure on Sinn Féin to explain why the police assess that the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation is still in existence.
Sinn Féin insists that the IRA has gone away and has accused the two unionist parties of contriving a crisis for electoral gain.
Meanwhile, Democratic Unionists' leader Peter Robinson has said the contents of a speech to be made by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to the House of Commons today will influence his party's approach to the talks.
The DUP leader, who stood aside as First Minister last week amid the furore created by the killing of McGuigan, said he would not make public what his party had asked of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Potential actions open to the British government include establishing new mechanisms to monitor paramilitary activity and provide assessments of the extent of IRA activity.
Mr Robinson said: "The secretary of state knows what we are looking for, the prime minister knows what we are looking for."
The DUP leader said his party wanted to be involved in talks, adding: "But we want to know that some of the main parties that will be involved and will have to take decisions are taking the issue seriously."
After meeting all the parties individually through the day, Ms Villiers said: "We need urgently to find a way forward so that intensive and focused talks can take place that lead to the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and address issues arising out of continued activity by paramilitary organisations."
Power-sharing in the North is now teetering on the brink of collapse. The Ulster Unionists have already quit the administration and four of the five DUP ministers in the executive have pulled out.