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First Minister asks David Cameron to suspend assembly

 Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson entering Number 10 Downing Street with DUP colleague Nigel Dodds to meet PM David Cameron
Andrea McKernon and PA

UPDATE: DUP leader Peter Robinson has said he has asked Prime Minister David Cameron to suspend the Northern Ireland assembly.

The First Minister also threatened that 'unilateral action' could be taken in relation to the Northern Ireland assembly, after his party failed in a bid for a four-week adjournment of Stormont to allow for political negotiations.

The assembly is due to return next Monday after the summer recess.

Meeting David Cameron in 10 Downing Street today, Mr Robinson said the government could still suspend Stormont after the Ulster Unionists decided to leave the devolved powersharing ministerial Executive after police said the IRA still exists.

Exiting the talks, Mr Robinson said: "We shared with the Prime Minister our assessment of where the circumstances in Northern Ireland were leading - our concerns that the process required urgent talks. The Prime Minister and Secretary of State agreed with that analysis."

The DUP leader said he requested the adjournment so that talks could proceed without normal business continuing.

The DUP had called for Assembly meetings which are due to begin next week to be stalled during crisis talks but was overruled by the other parties.

"Clearly in the absence of that there are other options open to us and we could take unilateral action in relation to the assembly and if necessary we will do that.

"However, the government could suspend and we have asked the Prime Minister to consider that," he said.

Mr Robinson added that decisions need to be made by Monday on how to clear space for talks.

Asked about independent monitoring of the IRA, he said: "I see that as being a small part of the issue of how to deal with paramilitary organisations.

"It is, on its own, not sufficient." 

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has said the Provisional IRA still exists and some members, along with a group styling itself Action Against Drugs, were involved in the murder of a father-of-nine last month.

A DUP spokesman said: "We have sought to extend the Assembly recess, to not return until October. That was not successful."

Mr Cameron is expected to come under pressure to penalise Sinn Fein when he meets Mr Robinson and his DUP deputy Nigel Dodds at Downing Street today.

Mr Cameron's official spokeswoman said the Downing Street meeting with Mr Robinson was "an opportunity for both of them to discuss the latest political situation in Northern Ireland and how we can continue to move forward".

The PM's spokeswoman added: "We are clear we want to work with parties there to implement the Stormont House Agreement."

The political fallout following the murder of IRA man Kevin McGuigan will also top the agenda in Dublin where Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will sit down with Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who has asked Irish police chiefs to review Provisional IRA (PIRA) activity.

The controversy was sparked when the chief constable said the PIRA still exists and some members, along with a group styling itself Action Against Drugs, were involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan. Police believe the killing was a revenge attack by republican associates of IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison who was gunned down in May.

The chief constable said the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism - instead pursuing peaceful, political republicanism - and that there is no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.

But the UUP said it could no longer work with Sinn Fein because trust has been shattered.

On Saturday it unanimously voted to leave the power-sharing Executive and the party's only minister, Danny Kennedy, is due to resign today.

Although the move is not enough to collapse the Executive it has put pressure on the DUP.

Mr Robinson, who has been on holiday, branded the UUP decision irrational, illogical and based on "political expediency" rather than principle.

Walking away should be a last resort, he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it would not be "deflected" and accused political opponents of exploiting murder.

Conor Murphy, MLA for Newry and Armagh, said: "We and the 178,000 people who voted for us in the last Assembly elections will not be excluded or discriminated against. Those days are over."

 

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