Theresa Villiers: Body to oversee decommissioning of command structures 'a credible choice'

Theresa Villiers: Body to oversee decommissioning of command structures 'a credible choice'

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said setting up an independent body to look at decommissioning command structures is a "credible'' option amid the North's political crisis.

It comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "gravely concerned" about the North's faltering powersharing government.

First Minister Peter Robinson stepped down yesterday and most of his DUP ministers quit over a crisis sparked by a murder linked to members of the IRA.

Mr Cameron said: "We want to see all politicians in Northern Ireland working together to build a better future for the country".

Arlene Foster will begin today as the sole unionist in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government after the mass resignation of her fellow party members.

Ms Foster has been named acting First Minister after a series of resignations, and a crisis sparked by a murder linked to members of the IRA.

DUP leader Peter Robinson asked Ms Foster to take over to prevent Sinn Féin from assuming key posts in the coalition.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said re-instigating an independent authority to look at decommissioning command structures was one of the most "credible'' options.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that is certainly one of the most credible ideas. I think it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate to set up exactly the same structure that existed in the past and certainly one would need to ask it a different question. In the past the question was just about decommissioning and ceasefires.

“I think now it is very clear we want to see these paramilitary organisations disband altogether. We also want to investigate the role of members of these organisations in relation to criminality.”

The Northern Ireland Secretary said it was “inevitable” that power-sharing would come under “huge strain”.

She said: “I certainly wish that the DUP had been able to find a different way to deal with this situation but I also accept that it had put a huge strain on working relationships as it would in any situation where a leading figure in your coalition partner is arrested in relation to a murder case.

“That poses very real difficulties and very real strains so I am afraid it’s inevitable that that was going to have a very significant impact on power sharing.”

Ms Villiers called on Labour’s new leader, to be named on Saturday, to continue the “bipartisan approach” on Northern Ireland.

“I think it would be gravely destabilising if a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party decided to depart from that,” she added.

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