22/07/2002

Violence threatens stability of executive

After weeks of mounting violence across Northern Ireland, the future of the executive seems close to collapse as advocates of the Good Friday agreement remain at loggerheads over the state of paramilitary ceasefires.

In an interview with RTÉ Radio One, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, and Minister for Education, Martin McGuinness said that he expected the institutions to fall before the elections in May. He said that the Ulster Unionist Party would probably walk out of the executive as part of an "anti-Sinn Fein agenda".

"I think that it is increasingly unlikely we are going to get to the elections in May. In all probability, the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party have already decided that it is much better to go quicker and on a very anti-Sinn Fein agenda," he said.

Mr Trimble has insisted that Prime Minister Tony Blair take action over the rise in paramilitary violence before Parliament rises for the summer recess on Wednesday. He has indicated that he would be prepared to resign his post as First Minister for a third time should there be no action by Downing Street over breaches in the paramilitary ceasefires. Mr Trimble has piled the pressure onto Tony Blair in recent days by giving a series of interviews to newspapers and television programmes.

The First Minister told BBC's 'Breakfast With Frost': "He [Tony Blair] is supposed to be the guardian of the peace process, he is the person who carries the legal responsibility for maintaining order here in Northern Ireland, and I'm calling on him to exercise that."

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Trimble said that if there is no sanction of paramilitary groups or parties associated with them, Northern Ireland would face the "nightmare scenario" of having Sinn Fein and the DUP as the dominant parties in the assembly.

Factions within UUP, most visible in the form of Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, are pressuring Mr Trimble to quit his post if Sinn Fein are not excluded from the executive.

However, in his interview with the Guardian, Mr Trimble said: "There's still a job to be finished here and it's one I intend to finish."

It is expected that Tony Blair will tell the Commons that all forms of paramilitary violence should cease and that recent unrest is incompatible with the continuance of the ceasefire status.

However, exiling republicans from the devolved government is not expected to be an option Mr Blair will agree to – leading to greater uncertainty over what the UUP leader's next move will be.

(GMcG)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

12 March 2020
Bullet Posted To Sinn Fein Councillor
A bullet has been posted through the letterbox of a Sinn Fein Councillor in Co Antrim, sparking condemnation from the party. Glenavy representative Gary McCleave was at home with his wife and young children when the act was carried out on Wednesday night, 11 March.
13 January 2020
Minister Swann To Meet Health Unions
Stormont's new health minister Robin Swann is to meet trade unions over the ongoing strike action. Ulster Unionist minister Robin Swann has pledged to solve the pay dispute "right away". Nurses and healthcare workers have been engaged in industrial action over staffing shortages and a lack of pay parity in recent weeks.
06 January 2020
SDLP Calls For Mental Health Minister
The SDLP has called for any future Stormont Executive to prioritise mental health and wellbeing with a dedicated Junior Minister. As talks to restore devolved government continue, the party's deputy leader Nichola Mallon said all parties are agreed on the need to unite to tackle the mental health crisis.
27 February 2002
Tory MP meets loyalist paramilitary chiefs in Belfast
The Conservative spokesman on Northern Ireland Quentin Davies has held face-to-face talks with loyalist paramilitary chiefs. The meeting between Mr Davies and members of the self-named Loyalist Commission took place at a secret location in Belfast on Tuesday February 26.
18 March 2020
SDLP Demands Clarity For Farmers
An SDLP MLA has demanded financial clarity for farmers across Northern Ireland. Mid Ulster representative Patsy McGlone addressed the NI Assembly at Stormont on Monday 16 March, calling for action on what direct payments will be made available post-Brexit.