Evidence of Provisional IRA activity is of sufficient strength to force the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the North’s powersharing government, the Democratic Unionists have insisted.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party would push for Sinn Féin to be thrown out of the coalition administration if the republican party did not deal with the revelations about the involvement of some PIRA members in a murder.
Mr Dodds indicated his party would be prepared to bring down the institutions if the issue was not dealt with “very speedily”.
He led a party delegation to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers in Belfast to discuss the political crisis sparked by the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan and a subsequent assessment by Northern Ireland’s police chief George Hamilton that the PIRA still exists and some of its members were involved in the killing.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers
Sinn Féin has rejected Mr Hamilton’s remarks and has insisted the IRA has “gone away”.
After the meeting at Stormont House, Mr Dodds said: “On the basis of what we know already there is sufficient basis on what the chief constable is saying about IRA members being involved in violence and murder and that IRA organisation exists, for an exclusion motion to be put down.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of what the chief constable will say to us and what the Government and others say to us but there is no reason at all, as things stand at the moment, why there should not be the exclusion of Sinn Féin on the basis of what the chief constable has already said.”
Mr Dodds and colleagues also intend to meet David Cameron, the British prime minister, to discuss the matter.
“We raised with the secretary of state that it cannot be ’business as usual’ until this matter is resolved and she agreed with us,” he said.
The DUP’s main electoral rivals, the Ulster Unionists, are set to resign from the Stormont Executive next week over the furore, claiming trust in Sinn Féin has been shattered.
While the dramatic walkout by one of the three minor coalition partners will not in itself trigger the collapse of the administration, it has thrown its future into serious doubt.
It has heaped pressure on the DUP to follow suit — a move that would bring down powersharing.
Outlining the party’s position after what he described as a “constructive” discussion with Ms Villiers, Mr Dodds said the DUP wanted to exert pressure on Sinn Féin to deal with the issue.
Barring action from the republican party, he said the DUP would be pressing for the support of the Government and remaining Executive parties for an exclusion motion.
If that was not forthcoming, Mr Dodds indicated the DUP would be prepared to bring down the administration itself.
The Alliance Party and SDLP are not currently supporting the DUP calls for Sinn Féin’s exclusion.
Here is a timeline of significant events over the past four months:
May 5: Gerard “Jock” Davison, 47, shot dead at Welsh Street in the Markets area of Belfast. The senior republican backed Sinn Féin’s peace process strategy following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and was employed as a community development worker in his local neighbourhood. He was linked to the fight which led to the death of father of three Robert McCartney in one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious killings, but was never charged. His uncle, Terrence Davison, was later acquitted of the murder.
May 9: Funeral for Gerard “Jock” Davison is attended by a number of high-profile Sinn Féin figures. His coffin is draped in a Tricolour with a beret and gloves placed on top.
Gerard “Jock” Davison
May 12: PSNI say murder investigation is “challenging”, but rule out dissident republican or loyalist paramilitary involvement.
May 26: Police reveal an unusual Eastern European weapon was used in the shooting of Gerard “Jock” Davison.
August 13: Former IRA man Kevin McGuigan, 53, is gunned down close to his home in the Short Strand area of east Belfast.
August 18: Four men, including Shankill bomber Seán Kelly, are arrested by detectives investigating the killing of Kevin McGuigan.
Kevin McGuigan’s widow Dolores is comforted at the funeral of the former IRA man.
August 18: Mourners at the funeral service for Kevin McGuigan told violence and revenge do not solve problems. Former Sinn Féin lord mayor of Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile, who is from the Short Strand district, is the only notable political figure in attendance.
August 20: Patrick John Fitzpatrick, 53, from the Lagmore area of Belfast, appears in court charged with possession of a weapon with intent to endanger life.
August 20: First Minister Peter Robinson warns Sinn Féin should be expelled from Northern Ireland Executive if it is proven that the Provisional IRA was involved in the murder of one of its former members.
August 21: PSNI Det Supt Kevin Geddes says they believe Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan alongside Action Against Drugs (AAD) — a group that includes former IRA members, dissident republicans, and criminals.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams
August 21: Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams rejects allegations of IRA involvement in the shooting of Kevin McGuigan and insists they left the stage in 2005.
August 22: PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton says the IRA still exists, but is not on a “war footing”. Following crunch talks with political figures at PSNI headquarters, Mr Hamilton says the IRA is committed to “promoting peaceful political republicanism”.
August 23: Gerry Adams tells National Hunger Strike commemoration in Dundalk the IRA “has gone away”.
August 24: Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers says she is “not surprised” by the police assessment that the IRA still exists, but says there is no evidence it is involved in terrorism.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald
August 25: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald orders a fresh assessment of Provisional IRA activity.
August 26: Ulster Unionist Party announces intention to resign from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
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