MARTIN McGuinness today warned the Democratic Unionist Party that they will lose if they provoke early elections in the North.
Mr McGuinness appealed to all unionist parties to engage in talks to salvage the North’s power-sharing structures which are now on the brink of total collapse.
The North’s deputy first minister evoked the memory of the late Ian Paisley – on the eve of the first anniversary of the DUP founder’s death.
The Sinn Fein leader said he had worked with Mr Paisley for a full year of his own eight-year term as joint head of the Belfast government.
“Whatever else he did, he never doubted my own commitment to peace. And I never doubted his,” Mr McGuinness told reporters at his party’s think-in in Co Meath.
He insisted that the DUP did not want early elections in the North because they would lose ground to rival unionist groups.
He also said he will not resign as deputy first minister, and that there is a window of four to six weeks to avoid the need for a new election.
Both Mr McGuinness and party leader Gerry Adams committed themselves to the all-party talks next week aimed at staving off yet another threat to the North’s power-sharing institutions.
The DUP and rival Ulster Unionist Party have pulled back from the Belfast government. This followed the month-long controversy about comments by the PSNI Chief Constable that the Provisional IRA still exists and that former IRA personnel were involved in two murders in Belfast earlier this summer.
Mr McGuinness said it was ironic that “low-life criminals,” who engaged in two murders, now threatened the North’s peace structures. He said unionists had done and said nothing about serious criminal acts and attacks by Loyalist-linked groups.
Gerry Adams was also scathingly critical of what he called Taoiseach’ Enda Kenny’s “inaction – followed by half-assed, sticking-plaster intervention” in the North peace process. “He’s the Taoiseach – he’s not just the leader of Fine Gael,” Mr Adams said.
The Sinn Fein 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 Fein would do better with a new leader?
Before he could answer, Martin McGuinness interjected: “He’s younger than the Pope.”
The political crisis that has engulfed Stormont, prompting First Minister Peter Robinson to stand down, was first sparked by the murder of well-known republican and former IRA commander Gerard "Jock" Davison in Belfast in May. Here is a timeline of significant events over the last five months.