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Stormont institutions look set for collapse

A DUP delegation, including Willie McCrea, Jeffrey Donaldson, Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell, met Theresa Villiers yesterday. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Stormont's power-sharing government looked set for collapse last night as the DUP indicated it was ready to bring down the institutions.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said there is enough evidence of Provisional IRA activity to force the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Executive.

He claimed it "cannot be business as usual" after the Chief Constable revealed that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Pressure has increased on the DUP after Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said his party would leave the coalition government.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly last night accused unionists of engaging in a "sham fight" driven by electoral rivalry.

"This is an attempt to punish a section of a community for the actions of a few criminals," he said.

"Sinn Fein will robustly defend our electoral mandate."

The DUP's stance appears to have hardened over recent days, though it remains non-committal on what exactly will happen next.

The SDLP and Alliance are thought to be reluctant to support attempts to force republicans out of government at this stage.

First minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister are both still on holiday, but are expected to return over the coming days.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern said yesterday it was a "time for cool heads", as he confirmed revelations by ex-justice minister Michael McDowell that the British and Irish governments believed allowing an "inert IRA" to continue in existence would help prevent dissident republicans filling the void.

However, former deputy first minister Seamus Mallon last night blamed the governments' "constructive ambiguity" for creating a situation where a paramilitary group could maintain its infrastructure.

"All of the ambiguities need to be cleared up because it's that which has done the damage and created the ongoing problems," he said.

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