Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson: Political reaction after First Minister tells Belfast Telegraph 'Stormont no longer fit for purpose'

Speaking exclusively Robinson said Stormont needed to change

By John Mulgrew

There has been a deluge of reaction from across the political spectrum today after First Minister Peter Robinson said Stormont was not longer fit for purpose.

To read the First Minister's full article, click here.

Writing exclusively in today's Belfast Telegraph, Peter Robinson said the devolved institutions could not continue working in their current form.

He said Northern Ireland will be financially crippled unless the welfare reform impasse is resolved.

The First Minister delivered a dramatic intervention on the future of Stormont if there is no political agreement on welfare reform.

He warned that an election would be the only alternative if agreement cannot be reached quickly. He also called for a second take of the St Andrews Agreement.

REACTION

Following today's coverage, party leaders have reacted, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claiming "megaphone or media-based negotiations are counter-productive".

"We have overcome enormous challenges in the past by treating each other with a degree of respect," he said.

"With the support and engagement of the two governments and the US administration I'm confident we can find a resolution to our current difficulties."

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman told a Westminster media briefing that he was not aware of Mr Robinson's comments, adding: "The Government's focus is on supporting the political parties in Northern Ireland, voted for by people in Northern Ireland, in terms of making the political devolution powers there work.

"That has been and remains the Government's and the Prime Minister's view."

In the latest controversy to hit Stormont, it emerged the First and Deputy First Ministers could not even agree on a response to Northern Ireland's most senior judge Sir Declan Morgan over comments made by an MLA about the rule of law.

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister said the current system of government required root-and-branch change.

"It is not a sticking plaster approach which Stormont needs, but root-and-branch change, whereby mandatory coalition and its crippling mutual vetoes are ditched," he said.

"It is inevitable that one day the present unworkable Stormont will implode."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he agreed Stormont was dysfunctional.

He said: "Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness adopted an 'Ourselves Alone' attitude to government. Now they have fallen out, the carve-up has become a face-off.

"The fix is a fairer deal.

"A system of government that does not offer the electorate the ability to change who governs them is not proper democracy."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell called on both the British and Irish governments to move decisively to initiate all-party talks, following Peter Robinson's comments.

He said the current crisis was a "manifestation of an on-going deterioration of the workings of the Executive between the First and Deputy First Ministers".

"The First Minister has much audacity in walking away from one set of talks and now calling for another set of talks.

"There also needs to be a huge dose of caution. All of the issues must be discussed, not merely the issues the DUP want to discuss."

Further reading

Peter Robinson: We need to change, or call an election

If Northern Ireland politicians can't agree over welfare reforms, then devolution has failed 

Stormont stalemate: Collective responsibility favoured

Praise First Minister Peter Robinson's pragmatism

Stormont's inadequate set-up and the welfare row... Northern Ireland's First Minister writes exclusively for the Telegraph

Disagreement at heart of Executive on 'how to respond to top judge's critique' 

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