DUP accuses UUP of hypocrisy over Stormont withdrawal
THE DUP has accused the UUP of hypocrisy after the party announced its withdrawal from the Executive to form an opposition over claims the Provisional IRA still exists.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his recommendation that the party withdraw has been unanimously accepted by its assembly members, MPs and senior members and would go before the party's ruling body on Saturday for a final decision.
Speaking at Stormont, the UUP leader said Sinn Fein has "no credibility and we have no trust and without trust there is nothing".
The PSNI has said it believes members of the Provisional IRA were involved in last week's murder of former IRA prisoner Kevin McGuigan and that structures of the paramilitary group are still operating.
Mr Nesbitt said he believed the political situation "can be fixed" but before his party considered a return to the Executive it would need "clarity about the IRA and its command structure".
"We want it to stop terrorising its community as we want the UDA, UVF, Red Hand Commandoes and all the rest to stop terrorising their communities... and we wouldn't argue with them if they took their paramilitary flags off lampposts as they left," he added.
The UUP will form an oposition "and offer the voter an alternative", he said.
"This is not an easy decision for Ulster Unionist Party, we are a party of government but this is the right thing to do at this time."
The UUP has one of 13 seats on the Executive - Danny Kennedy is been regional development minister.
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has accused Mr Nesbitt of trying to create a "false crisis" while Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the UUP of playing party politics.
This decision by the UUP is more about inter Unionist rivalry than their & others feigned concern about our unequivocal commitment to #Peace— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) August 26, 2015
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the UUP "record of government is one of crisis and collapse".
"The UUP previously sat in government with Sinn Fein before decommissioning and whenever the PIRA was armed and active. For the UUP to try and rewrite history is downright hypocritical and misleading," he said.
He said if anyone should be excluded from Executive it should be Sinn Fein, not unionists, claiming "profound questions" had been raised about the republican party's fitness for government.
The DUP is set to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to discuss the situation tomorrow and is seeking an "urgent meeting" with Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Our message is clear: the duty of every responsible politician is to ensure that those who are in breach of their commitments to exclusively democratic and peaceful methods are the ones who are punished," said Mr Dodds.
"It is republicans who are responsible for the current situation and it is on republicans that the pressure should be maintained.
"If anyone should be excluded from government in Northern Ireland for wrongdoing, it is Sinn Fein, not unionists.
"So there is a clear onus on the other Northern Ireland parties to recognise what needs to be done."
Mr Dodds said the Secretary of State must recognise that action must be taken to ensure that government in Northern Ireland only consists of those committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
"The DUP will not turn a blind eye to the implications of the Chief Constable's statement. If others do not act with us to punish the wrongdoers then make no mistake we will do what is right for unionism and for Northern Ireland.
"The DUP entered the Executive on the basis that all parties in it must be committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means and full support for the police, the courts and the rule of law.
"That remains the basis and there can be no fudge between support for the rule of law and those who maintain the capacity to engage in terror," he said.
But TUV leader Jim Allister has welcomed the UUP decision to leave "the now wholly discredited Executive".
“TUV have consistently made the case for democratic reform of Stormont and in particular having an opposition, therefore it is better late than never for the UUP to make a move in our direction."
Full statement by Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt
In 1998, the Ulster Unionist Party stretched itself very close to breaking point to secure the return of Devolution, because it was the right thing to do.
A founding principle of that Agreement was the opportunity to build mutual TRUST between Unionism, Nationalism and Republicanism.
17 years on, we are told the IRA still exists, and that it has a command structure, at a senior level.
We are also told members of the IRA have committed a murder on the streets of our capital city, working with another criminal gang, Action Against Drugs.
And in response, Sinn Féin trot out their Single Transferrable Speech of Denial.
That speech is threadbare. It has put a hole in the fabric of the Agreement.
That hole needs mended.
The Single Transferrable Speech of Denial totally lacks credibility.
It has shattered TRUST.
The Ulster Unionist Party remains committed to our vision of a Northern Ireland that is totally peaceful and where everyone prospers - unionists, nationalists and republicans equally.
Where we offer each other mutual respect for our traditions.
Where we deliver the much heralded Peace Dividend, which would bring that prosperity to all our people, not least the vulnerable.
Where devolved government delivers better government than Direct Rule.
Those were the key outcomes we envisaged in 1998.
Since 2007, the DUP and Sinn Féin have been leading our government. That’s over 8 years. We need wait no longer for further proof of their inability to deliver those goals.
In sadness more than anger I recognise they cannot deliver positive outcomes for our people.
We hear what people are saying. They need and deserve and yearn for a Party that is willing to stretch itself today – stretch beyond its own self-interests to what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland – all of them.
The Ulster Unionist Party is ready to stretch itself again.
I have just chaired a meeting of our MLA Group, also attended by our MEP, our MPs, senior officers of our Councillors’ Association and our Party Chairman representing our Party Officers.
I gave them my analysis of where we are.
I gave them my recommendation, which they accepted unanimously.
The next step is to call a Meeting of our own Executive, to ask them to endorse our collective decision.
That decision is to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive, to form an Opposition and offer people an alternative, as is the way in any proper democracy.
We are in a bad place, but this can be fixed.
But the IRA need to go away and stop terrorising their own communities.
So do the UDA, and UVF and Red Hand Commando – and the rest.
And I wouldn’t argue if they took down their paramilitary flags on the way out.
Our Vision remains that of a Northern Ireland that is totally peaceful and where everyone prospers – republicans, nationalists and unionists equally.