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Fresh negotiations likely to resolve Stromont crisis

First Minister Peter Robinson arrives at Downing Street last night for meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron

The Stormont parties look set for a fresh round of negotiations aimed at keeping the devolved institutions alive against the fall-out from the Kevin McGuigan murder.

The two governments met in Dublin to discuss the crisis prompted by last month's killing in Belfast's Short Strand, while the DUP travelled to London to ask David Cameron to exclude Sinn Féin from the executive.

Earlier in the day, the DUP was blocked in its bid to extend the assembly's summer recess by four weeks to allow all-party talks to take place. As The Irish News revealed yesterday the party had hoped for an adjournment, but was out-voted at a sitting of the Stormont's business committee.

DUP chief whip Peter Weir accused the Ulster Unionists of hypocrisy for walking away from the executive but refusing to punish republicans by not voting to stall the assembly's restart.

The Ulster Unionists have drawn criticism from their larger unionist rivals over the decision to withdraw from the executive and yesterday saw the party's sole Stormont minister Danny Kennedy hand in his resignation.

 

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his party had taken the decision to leave the executive while the "DUP continue to dither and seek a bailout from others".

He said the Ulster Unionists had suggested fresh talks to the secretary of state last week but that they would not enter any process "until we know what the terms and conditions are".

At the discussions in Dublin between Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, one option being explored was the revival of an independent body to analyse paramilitary activity.

Mrs Villers said bringing back the Independent Monitoring Commission, which last reported in 2011, was one option on the table to restore trust being unionists and republicans.

Mr Flanagan welcomed the DUP leader's call for a new round of negotiations.

"I and my colleagues in government are willing to look at all options on how best to take the current situation in a positive direction that can address the legitimate concerns of many, rebuild trust and confidence and ensure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement," he said.

Peter Robinson emerged from his meeting with Mr Cameron last night only to restate his party's position.

"The government could suspend (Sinn Féin) and we've asked the prime minister to do that, if indeed the party's don't recognise that an adjournment would be a better option," he said.

The first minister said it was necessary to implement all elements of the Stormont House Agreement.

"On top of that there is the real and present issue which is dealing with paramilitarism, getting rid of paramilitary organisations and ensuring the criminality and terrorism that is associated with them is brought to an end."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness indicated that Sinn Féin would take part in a new round of negotiations.

He said he and his colleagues had taken great risks in support of the peace process over the last decade, "facing down violent elements both republican and loyalist".

"Resolution of the current political difficulties will not be achieved through internal unionist electoral contests or naked party politicking," he said.

 

Alliance back the proposal for a fresh round of talks with Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry saying the current status quo was "unsustainable".

"If the institutions are to have any realistic chance of survival and delivery, we need to resolve the issues on the table," he said.

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