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Peter Robinson: DUP ministers will resign from the Executive if Assembly is not adjourned

Ultimatum comes as senior republican Bobby Storey was one of three arrests in Belfast by detectives investigating Kevin McGuigan murder

By Claire Williamson and PA

Published 09/09/2015

Murdered: Kevin McGuigan
Murdered: Kevin McGuigan
DUP press conference at Stormont. PIC: DUP Online Twitter @duponline

First minister Peter Robinson has issued an ultimatum saying DUP ministers will resign from the Executive if the Assembly is not adjourned or suspended immediately.

It comes as the DUP leader repeated his call for the adjournment of the Northern Ireland Assembly after senior republican Bobby Storey was arrested by detectives investigating the murder of ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

The killing of the father-of-nine has plunged Stormont into political crisis after the PSNI's assessment that members of the Provisional movement were involved in the killing.

Mr Storey, who is the northern chairman of Sinn Fein was one of three men aged 59, 45 and 58 arrested in the north and west areas of Belfast this morning.

The other two men arrested are well-known republicans Eddie Copeland and Brian Gillen.

The DUP wants the Assembly to be suspended until the McGuigan crisis is resolved.

Mr Robinson warned the resignations could happen by the end of tomorrow (Thursday) if other parties in the Assembly did not back the suspension move in a vote, or if the Government did not act to suspend proceedings in the absence of that vote.

The move would collapse the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland


DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson, along with party colleagues, addresses the media. Pic: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

In a statement the DUP leader said: "As a consequence of today's events, we are seeking the recall of the Business Committee to consider adjourning the Assembly.

"If that does not happen or, as an alternative, the Secretary of State does not suspend the Assembly, then DUP Ministerial resignations will follow immediately."

"The DUP has made it clear it will not be involved in business as usual. Other parties must now step up to the mark and stop the Assembly from proceeding as if nothing has happened.

"We have attempted to create the space for these matters to be dealt with, but if others want the Assembly to function normally in spite of Sinn Fein's position, we will have reached the point where, as a last resort, we will take this final step."

However the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said both Mr Cameron and and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are against any suspension.

Mr McGuinness siad Sinn Fein are against "violence, criminality and those who would attempt to drag us back to past".

2/2) We will do so again. Hopefully the UUP will support us this time rather than voting with SF for business as usual.

— Peter Robinson (@DUPleader) September 9, 2015

"We're not going to jump to the tune of the inter-party rivalry that's being played out between both unionist parties at this time," he said.

"I think it would be a grave mistake from the British government to suspend these institutions. I think it would send a very negative message.

"Not only do all the politicians have a duty to provide strong, positive and decisive leadership, that must also be provided by the British and Irish governments."

There have been a total of 16 arrests in connection with the investigation to date - one person was charged. All others were questioned and released unconditionally.

Detective Chief Inspector John McVea said: "The three males are currently assisting officers at the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim Police Station."

First minister Peter Robinson tweeted following the arrests this morning saying the DUP will for the second time seek adjournment of the Assembly and called for support.

He said: "Hopefully the UUP will support us this time rather than voting with SF for business as usual".

Responding to the arrests deputy first minister Minister Martin McGuinness said Sinn Fein "look forward with confidence to his early release".

In a statement the Sinn Fein MLA said: "I was surprised to learn about the arrest this morning of our six-county party chair Bobby Storey.

“Bobby Storey is a valued member of Sinn Féin's core leadership.

“He has played a leading role in the development of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy and is a long standing and loyal supporter, defender and advocate of the peace and political processes.

“We look forward with confidence to his early release.”

Today Prime Minister David Cameron appealed for Northern Ireland's politicians t o keep the "spirit" of the peace process in mind.

The DUP unsuccessfully sought a four-week adjournment and subsequently called a halt to all meetings of the Northern Ireland Executive to focus on crisis talks.

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

The Ulster Unionist Party withdrew from the Northern Ireland Executive in the wake of the PSNI's assessment and have since walked out of talks aimed at resolving the political deadlock.

The UUP have said they will have an "urgent meeting" with the Prime Minister David Cameron this afternoon.

In a statement the UUP said: "Given recent developments the party feels fully vindicated for the stance it took at the Stormont House talks when we called for the agenda to be focused on terrorism and the credibility of Sinn Fein's position regarding the status of the IRA.

"We understand the DUP are now looking for our support. What a pity no other party supported us last night."

Sinn Fein have rejected the PSNI's assessment and said the IRA had "gone away".

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams claimed competition for electoral support between the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists was driving the crisis.

Mr Adams added: "At this stage I don't want to go any further than saying I have grave concerns about how all this has developed, including the arrest of Bobby Storey."

McGuinness: McGuigan killers are no friends of Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness branded those involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan "criminals" who were "no friends" of his party.

He accused the DUP and UUP of a failure of leadership. He said their actions were "foolhardy, foolish and totally devoid of the quality of leadership that is required".

"The demand, the ultimatum, that has been issued that the institutions be adjourned Sinn Fein is opposed to," he said.

"We are not going to jump to the tune of the inter-party rivalry that is being played out among both unionist parties at this time and I think it would be a grave mistake for the British government to suspend these institutions.

"I think it would send a very negative message and would be grist to the mill of those who in the past have tried to plunge us back to the past.

"I have spoken in recent days to the British government and I have spoken to the Taoiseach (Enda Kenny) this afternoon. David Cameron told me he would not suspend the institutions, the Taoiseach told me this afternoon he was totally opposed to the suspension of the institutions. So I think what is required over the course of the next number of hours and into tomorrow is a period of reflection for those who are involved in this inter-party rivalry."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his party's position had been vindicated.

"There is one issue here - the fact the IRA still exists and Sinn Fein are in denial," he said.

"So there is only one fix and I cannot supply it, the DUP cannot supply it, for all their bluster. The only person who can supply the fix is Gerry Adams. Gerry Adams has to admit the IRA exists, with a structure. Without that, talks of adjournments and suspensions and talks - it's all bluster. It's down to Gerry Adams to tell the truth."

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