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Hints that DUP ministers will return to desks at Stormont

By Steven Alexander

Published 19/10/2015

Peter Robinson has given his clearest indication yet that the DUP's ministers could be back at their desks within days.

With a key report on paramilitary activity expected imminently, the DUP leader - who stood aside as First Minister as the political crisis developed - urged politicians to "seize the moment and work to finish the job".

Writing exclusively in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson said the DUP would accept the forthcoming report on terror groups and criminality "in its entirety".

And while he stated that it would be unacceptable to him if the assessment revealed paramilitary activity, Mr Robinson said he would "earnestly work towards the day when our society is free of all such groups".

"The only context that merits the engagement of democratic politicians is when they are dealing with non-threatening structures formerly used for paramilitary purposes but now desiring to transition toward disbandment," he wrote.

"The issue needs to be addressed and not dodged."

The security assessment is being written by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, former senior civil servant Rosalie Flanagan and lawyer Stephen Shaw.

It was seen as a potentially confidence-building measure for a political process that had been shattered after a police assessment that members of the IRA were involved in shooting Belfast man Kevin McGuigan in August.

That prompted unionists to remove all ministers but one from the Executive.

The DUP has since been reinstating and then removing Executive ministers, to prevent the posts being reallocated to other parties.

However, the tactic has been denounced for leaving departments, in particular health, rudderless.

Crucially, Mr Robinson argues that the existence of the IRA and other paramilitary groups will not prevent his ministers going back into government with Sinn Fein.

But he was clear that the IRA cannot be involved in paramilitary or criminal activity in order for this to happen.

"If we are to truly seize the opportunity before us we must collectively ensure that paramilitary activity is a thing of the past and those who refuse to leave it behind are dealt with by the PSNI and other agencies," Mr Robinson stated.

"For the DUP to reconsider its present Ministerial protest we need a report that categorically determines there is no organisational sanction for terrorist or criminal activity."

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