Sinn Féin open to return of monitoring

Sinn Féin officials said yesterday the return of the InternationalMonitoring Commission may be necessary. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

Sinn Féin has said it is “open” to the potential return of the Independent Monitoring Commission to ensure paramilitary groups no longer exist after Northern Ireland’s secretary of state said this may be the only way to resolve the current crisis.

Party president Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness opened up the possibility of the move being agreed to after crunch talks next week during the group’s annual think-in event in Co Meath yesterday.

Speaking to reporters before the day-long meeting was closed off to the media, the senior Sinn Féin officials said they believe the prospect of the IMC’s return may be necessary to calm the crisis in the North over the recent murders of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison and Kevin McGuigan, whose murderers Mr McGuinness called “low life criminals”.

The potential return of the IMC, which was disbanded in March 2011, was earlier raised by Northern Ireland’s secretary of state Theresa Villiers who said it would be “certainly one of the most credible ideas” to solve the current crisis and that the issue is likely to be raised at crucial talks on Monday.

On Thursday, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson stepped down from the power-sharing Stormont government due to the controversy surrounding PSNI chief constable Brian Hamilton’s conclusion last month that elements of the provisional IRA still exist and were involved in the murders of Mr Davison and Mr McGuigan.

The move — which has seen the DUP pull out of government, following the rival UUP a fortnight ago — followed the arrest of three prominent republicans including Sinn Féin official Bobby Storey this week in connection with Mr McGuigan’s death. All three have since been released without charge.

As a result of the growing difficulties in the North, the Irish and British governments are attempting to negotiate a deal between the five members of the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, with talks due to take place on Monday.

However, while welcoming the need for action, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams rounded on parties north and south of the border, accusing them of creating a “contrived crisis” for their own electoral benefit.

He claimed Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is “obsessed” with Sinn Féin and that Taoiseach Enda Kenny must “rise above” recent criticisms of Mr Adams’ party because “he is the Taoiseach, not just the leader of Fine Gael”.

In response to acting First Minister Arlene Foster’s remarks that “paramilitary activity” is a “cancer at the heart of government”, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the remark is “rubbish” and “stirring up” the crisis.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron have both called for calm. Mr Kenny said the institution is “worth saving” but noted “you can’t have a situation of fear along the border where people are afraid to open their mouths”, while Mr Cameron said Britain “stands ready to help” to save power-sharing.

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