Sunday 8 December 2019

North election may be called tomorrow

Irish language issue must also be addressed, warns Flanagan

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan Photo: Gerry Mooney
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan Photo: Gerry Mooney

Jim Cusack

A Northern Ireland election could be called as soon as tomorrow evening, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has warned.

In a column in The Irish News yesterday, Flanagan said that while issues over local political differences and devolved powers were not a matter for Dublin, the Republic "has a solemn responsibility to ensure that the (Belfast/Good Friday) Agreement is upheld".

Several issues may come to the fore in an election, including Sinn Fein's demands for an Irish Language Act for the North, which is opposed by the DUP.

Flanagan indicated in his column that the Irish language issue "must be addressed if the devolved institutions are to thrive".

He also touched on the thorny 'legacy' issue of the Troubles. After the Saville public inquiry into the killing of 12 Catholics by the British Army in Derry in 1972, a re-investigation of actions on Bloody Sunday and other killings by soldiers has taken place and three former British Army members are facing charges.

However, the 'legacy' re- investigation has expanded to examine evidence relating to IRA and loyalist killings and atrocities as well.

This, former paramilitary sources in Belfast said, was causing great disquiet, particularly among the 200 to 300 former IRA members who went 'on the run' after committing crimes in the North. They now face re-arrest and possible prosecution.

One major IRA atrocity that is being reinvestigated is the 'Kingsmill Massacre' of 10 Protestant workmen in South Armagh in January 1976.

The renewed inquest, held at the request of relatives of the victims last year, led to the revelations that fingerprints and possible new DNA evidence linked the atrocity to a number of senior republicans in the area.

Security and republican sources in the North last week expressed concern that a contentious election could be held amid rising tensions if IRA figures, some in senior positions in Sinn Fein, were arrested as part of the renewed historic crimes investigations.

The number of seats in Assembly elections has been reduced from the c urrent 108 to 90 and it is understood that Sinn Fein is hoping it can reverse recent electoral reverses in the North and could be in with a chance of gaining more seats than the DUP.

That could give Sinn Fein the First Minister position at Stormont.

Sunday Independent

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