The Ulster Unionist Party has indicated its intention to take part in intensive political talks aimed at saving powersharing in the North in the wake of an IRA-linked murder.
The UUP, which quit the Stormont Executive following the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan, criticised a negotiation initiative last week for not scheduling the murder as the first item on the agenda.
The coalition government is teetering on the brink of collapse after the Democratic Unionists last week pulled the majority of its ministers out of the administration.
New talks involving the main parties and the Irish and British governments will be convened by the North’s secretary of state Theresa Villiers at Stormont tomorrow.
They will focus on the fallout from the murder and a range of other destablising disputes threating the future of the Stormont Executive, including the bitter impasse over implementing welfare reforms.
The PSNI have said current members of the IRA were involved in last month’s shooting of Mr McGuigan in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard “Jock” Davison in Belfast three months earlier.
The disclosures about the IRA have heaped pressure on Sinn Féin to explain why the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation is still in existence.
Sinn Féin has insisted the IRA has gone away and has accused the two unionist parties of contriving a crisis for electoral gain.
A UUP spokesman said: “The Ulster Unionist Party will enter talks, all things being equal.
“We have been consistent in our analysis of the dysfunction of the Executive during eight long years of Sinn Féin/DUP control. We wish to negotiate a fix, because this cannot be as good as it gets. We have imaginative ideas, including the pathway to unblocking welfare, which we proposed at the talks last week.
“We will continue to remain strong in standing up to Sinn Féin. That means the status of the IRA and Sinn Fein’s denial must be addressed as a matter of urgency, not relegated to the bottom of the agenda, as it was this week.
“Nor can it be lumped into a ”nothing is agreed until everything is agreed“ process, because that would be to reduce the truth to a bargaining chip and the Ulster Unionist Party will not insult the suffering of victims and survivors by trading the truth against welfare reform or a balanced budget. The former is a matter of credibility, the latter are matters of good government.
“Also, there must be no twin-track strategy and that means no side deals and no parallel process.
“We will meet the Secretary of State early on Monday to satisfy ourselves of the proper conditions for our full engagement in the new talks process.”