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DUP accused of playing 'Hokey Cokey' over Executive meetings

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 07/09/2015

UUP Mike Nesbitt talks to the press in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, regarding the recent crisis in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
UUP Mike Nesbitt talks to the press in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, regarding the recent crisis in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy talks to the press in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, regarding the recent crisis in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
TUV leader Jim Allister talks to the press in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, regarding the recent crisis in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The DUP has been accused of playing "hokey cokey" over its decision to halt all but exceptional Executive meetings at Stormont.

Standing over his decision to pull out of the five-party coalition, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt said the DUP was sending out mixed messages.

He said: "I think they are being a little bit more confused. I think it is a bit of hokey cokey they are playing.

"We at least were a bit more definite. We said business would not be as usual. This is the first day in the history of parliament in Northern Ireland that an Assembly has been in session without an Ulster Unionist Party in government."

Although the UUP would embrace the forthcoming talks process, Sinn Fein and the police must be on the "same page" with regards to the status of the IRA, Mr Nesbitt said.

He added: "That has to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

"I expect Sinn Fein and the PSNI to end up on the same page. I expect them to work hard to end up on the same page."

Sinn Fein said it was focused on fighting austerity and would not be detracted by unionist rivalry.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy said: "We are mandated to be here to do business, we are mandated to fight austerity and the impact of Tory cuts on frontline public services and on vulnerable people.

"We are also mandated to negotiate if negotiations arise and that is what we intend to do. We intend to deliver on that mandate, it is up to others to explain, I suppose, what the effect their actions will have on our ability collectively to deliver for communities and to deliver for people who elected us all to this institution, to work this institution.

"We are not threatening the institution, we are here to do business, we are not going to allow ourselves to be distracted and we intend to continue with that business."

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, an arch critic of powersharing, slammed the DUP response as "weak" and said few would notice if the Executive did not meet.

He said: "An Executive that doesn't work and cannot deliver isn't going to meet. Big deal.

"The DUP say that Sinn Fein is inextricably linked to the IRA. The uncomfortable truth for them to face is that they are now the only Unionist party which is inextricably linked to Sinn Fein/IRA by virtue of retaining their ministerial positions.

"The DUP have put office ahead of principle. I look forward to the electorate passing their verdict upon that decision."

Meanwhile, Ukip leader David McNarry described it as a "grim day" and called for the Assembly to get back in touch with the needs of the public.

Further reading:

Peter Robinson: No further meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive unless exceptional circumstances 

Northern Ireland political crisis: key questions

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