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IRA monitoring 'could resolve Stormont crisis'

DUP leader Peter Robinson (left) is in London for talks with David Cameron today. UUP leader Mike Nesbitt took his party out of the Executive last week, leaving minister Danny Kennedy's post empty
Brian Hutton, Michael McHugh and Lesley-Anne McKeown

The Irish government has signalled independent monitoring of the IRA could help resolve the latest political crisis in the north.

After a two-hour meeting with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said a number of options were on the table.

Little detail was given but he suggested fresh multi-party talks, with London and Dublin overseeing the process, could be imminent.

"I would expect there will be a level of talk and negotiations over the next few weeks," he said.

"A number of options were discussed by the Secretary of State and ourselves as to how best we might facilitate the restoration of trust and confidence in the Northern institutions.

"In the event that talks take place, we will have a fundamental role in facilitating, influencing and advocating a reengagement on the part of the parties in Northern Ireland towards the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr Flanagan added: "One option has been that there be some form of independent monitoring arrangement. Again, the detail wasn't discussed, however it remains an option."

The Foreign Affairs Minister said the need for round table engagement is "essential".

Warning of very serious challenges in the weeks ahead as the Stormont Assembly returns, he urged "all five party leaders" in the north to recommit themselves to the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement .

Ms Villiers also suggested that bringing back the Independent Monitoring Commission, which last reported in 2011, could restore trust between unionists and republicans.

"The problem we have at the moment is real. There's a genuine concern about the current situation," she said.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who also met with Ms Villiers in Dublin, released no fresh information on any IRA activity after a high-level meeting with the Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan this morning to discuss security.

She said there was an ongoing review and that both the Garda and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) agree on their security assessments.

"If there is evidence emerging that has implications here in the south, clearly that will be acted upon," she added.

Earlier, the DUP were defeated in a bid for a four-week adjournment of the Assembly to allow for political negotiations.

The Ulster Unionists have decided to leave the devolved power-sharing ministerial Executive after police said the IRA still exists.

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

DUP leader Peter Robinson is due to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron in London later.

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.

They believe the killing of Kevin McGuigan 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.

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."

Ms Villiers said the "most crucial" aspect of the latest crisis was to allow the PSNI to investigate the Davison and McGuigan murders.

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