Unionists to walk out as 'elephant in the room' not addressed
Ulster Unionists have stepped closer towards walking out of what they dubbed the "Fawlty Towers" talks, just as they quit the Executive.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt warned yesterday's resumed negotiations that the independent report on paramilitarism failed to address "the elephant in the room" - the existence and role of the IRA army council.
"It was like the episode of Fawlty Towers where everyone is told, 'don't mention the war'," the UUP boss, whose sole minister Danny Kennedy quit the Executive eight weeks ago, quipped.
Following a session focused on the report, Mr Nesbitt said he attempted to raise the issue of paramilitarism three times, but was at first told off and then subsequently ignored.
Mr Nesbitt said he had asked the meeting yesterday: "Have I been sitting here in negotiations with members of the IRA army council?" Secretary of State Theresa Villiers told him the question was "not appropriate".
The UUP leader said Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan remarked that his army council question was "less than positive".
Sinn Féin representative Conor Murphy accused Mr Nesbitt of hypocrisy claiming he has acknowledged there are areas of Newtownards controlled by the UVF.
Meanwhile, SDLP negotiator Alex Attwood said the gravity of the issues before the parties should not be reduced to comedy - or denial, of which he accused Sinn Féin.
"What is required is war on organised crime, the pursuit of criminality to the four corners of Ireland and for the IRA, UDA, UVF influences, control and structures to be gone and gone for good," the former executive minister said.