Tuesday 28 March 2017

DUP ministers will be reappointed next week . . . to quit again

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at a meeting of SF’s Dáil, Assembly and European
Parliament teams, at the City North Hotel, Co Meath. Photo: PA
Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at a meeting of SF’s Dáil, Assembly and European Parliament teams, at the City North Hotel, Co Meath. Photo: PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Democratic Unionist ministers who quit Northern Ireland's powersharing government are set to be renominated next week - only to resign again immediately, in a move designed to keep the posts away from nationalists and republicans, party leader Peter Robinson has said.

Under the rules of Stormont's Executive, if a minister is not renominated within seven days the position is reallocated to another party.

Mr Robinson said he aimed to ensure the administration was not able to function properly until the crisis linked to the murder of Kevin McGuigan was resolved.

The DUP leader, who himself stood aside as first minister on Thursday, outlined the potential political choreography as the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged Northern Ireland's politicians to "go the extra mile" to save the institutions.

Mr Cameron said his Government stood ready to do what it could to resolve the meltdown sparked by the PSNI's assessment that the provisional IRA still exists. Intensive political talks involving the Northern Ireland parties and the British and Irish governments are due to start on Monday. Mr Cameron described the crisis as an "extremely worrying situation".

Appeal

And speaking at the Fine Gael party think-in in Adare, Co Limerick, Mr Kenny said that young people did not want their opportunities "stunted by internal party politics".

"The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to have the expression of their vote translated into normal politics where the issues of development of Northern Ireland, their lives, their careers and opportunities are managed competently by responsible politicians," he said.

"When people put their names on ballot papers and are elected to office, they have assumed a responsibility and that responsibility was voted for by the people - devolution of authority and the running of normal politics in Northern Ireland, that's what you have to get back to. And there is no point in being blocked off by the politics of the past."

The fallout from the murder of Mr McGuigan has already seen the Ulster Unionists resign their one ministerial post.

While the exit of Mr Robinson, along with three of the DUP's four other ministers, has left the 13-minister administration in freefall. The departments of health and social care; social development; enterprise, trade and investment; and regional development are now effectively rudderless.

DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster has been left in the Executive to act as what her party is describing as a "gatekeeper" to prevent controversial government decisions by the remaining nationalist and republican ministers. As well as her current portfolio, she has assumed the post of acting First Minister.

Meanwhile, Martin McGuinness has evoked the memory of the late Ian Paisley - on the first anniversary of the DUP founder's death - in an appeal for talks to save power-sharing.

"I have worked in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister for the last eight years, for that first year with Ian Paisley and, God rest him, he will be dead a year tomorrow," Mr McGuinness said.

"Whatever about his past, in that year that I worked with him, he had no doubt about my commitment to peace and democracy and making the process work. And I had no doubt about his commitment to peace and democracy and making the process work. We need to get back to this spirit."

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister warned the DUP it would lose out to rival unionist groups if it provoked early elections in the North. He appealed to all unionist parties to engage in talks next week.

He said Sinn Féin would not quit the North's executive and also argued that the DUP did not want early elections because they would lose ground. Sinn Féin could take advantage - but they did not want to do that.

Speaking at their party's pre-Dáil think-in, both Mr McGuinness and party leader Gerry Adams committed themselves to the all-party talks. Mr McGuinness said they had four to six weeks for a result.

Mr Adams was scathingly critical of what he called Taoiseach Enda Kenny's "inaction - followed by half-assed, sticking-plaster intervention".

The Sinn Féin leader was asked to comment on Mr Kenny's assertion that he would serve a full second term if re-elected. Did Mr Adams believe that Sinn Féin would do better with a new leader?

Before he could answer, Mr McGuinness interjected: "He's younger than the Pope."

Irish Independent

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