Martin McGuinness has expressed concern that “state agents” intent on creating problems for Sinn Féin were involved in the two murders that have rocked powersharing at Stormont.
Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister said he feared elements opposed to the peace process had a hand in the killings.
Mr McGuinness said those elements also wished to create difficulties for DUP leader Peter Robinson, who last week stood aside as First Minister amid the crisis prompted by the murders of former IRA men Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan.
“The more I consider and the more I think about how all this began — the murders of two people, and our hearts absolutely go out to their families, Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan — you need to be stupid folks not to be asking the question whose agenda is best served by those murders,” he said.
“It certainly wasn’t our agenda, it wasn’t Sinn Féin’s agenda, it wasn’t the Sinn Féin peace strategy agenda, and in my opinion it wasn’t Peter Robinson’s agenda. This is something that has caused huge problems for us within the political institutions.”
He added: “So I think serious questions have to be asked about whose agenda was served by those murders, particularly as we all know that the prospect that agents were involved, people who are hostile to the peace process, who are hostile to Sinn Féin’s involvement in the political institutions.”
He said the murders had “created problems” for Sinn Fein and Mr Robinson.
“The roots of this is two murders and the people who are responsible for those murders are either criminals, agents, dissidents — they are certainly not supporters of ours.”
Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party has indicated its intention to take part in intensive political talks aimed at saving powersharing in Northern Ireland 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.
Talks involving the main parties and the British and Irish governments will be convened by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at Stormont today. 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.
Police 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.
A UUP spokesman said: “The Ulster Unionist Party will enter talks, all things being equal.”
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