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'Serious consideration' needed for new Independent Monitoring Commission - Villiers

Peter Robinson says 'holding statement' delays talks

Published 15/09/2015

Theresa Villiers has again urged the parties to work together.
Theresa Villiers has again urged the parties to work together.

The Secretary of State has said "serious consideration" needs to be given to the return of a body similar to that of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).

DUP leader Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have called for a return of the IMC.

This body was first set up in 2004 to monitor the paramilitary ceasefires and completed its work in 2011.

Ms Villiers told MPs the political situation is "very grave", and relations between the Northern Ireland parties have "almost completely broken down" with the Executive "dysfunctional".

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson steps down: Timeline of events  

Updating the House of Commons on Tuesday, Theresa Villiers said: "The government is working with the parties on how to achieve that goal.

"For example, serious consideration needs to be given to whether the time is right to re-establish a body along the lines of the Independent Monitoring Commission.

"The remit the parties might wish to give to such a body is likely to be different from those addressed by the original IMC, reflecting changed circumstances.

"But there might well be scope for such a body to play a part in providing greater community confidence and repairing working relationships within the Executive."

Peter Robinson said the announcement has further delayed talks.

Stormont crisis: 'There can be no preconditions to talks' - Martin McGuinness  

Ms Villiers also warned of the consequences of the Executive parties not implementing the Stormont House Agreement.

"Without welfare reform," the Conservative minister said, "and steps to tackle in-year budget pressures, there is a real danger that Executive departments could start running out of money, becoming steadily less able to pay their bills, with the serious negative impact that could have on front line public services.

"And as we have seen in those parts of Europe where governments are unable to control their debts and live within their means, some of which are supported by the new leader of the Labour party, it is the vulnerable and most disadvantaged who suffer most in such situations."

Responding Sinn Fein said there should be no delays or preconditions for talks.

MLA Conor Murphy said: "We are approaching these talks to achieve a resolution and that should be the goal of all political parties.

"If a resolution cannot be found then the next step will be to go to the polls and call a fresh election."

The powersharing institutions have been brought to the brink of collapse after the police said IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

He was gunned down in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of former IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison.

Sinn Fein insists the IRA has gone away and has accused the two unionist parties of contriving a crisis for electoral gain.

During today's session in the Commons, The Labour Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Vernon Coaker, who was reappointed to the role by new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier this week was questioned on his party's policy on the region.

It follows after quotes from senior Labour politicians' in support for the IRA and Sinn Fein were repeated in the Press following the new leaders' election.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said it was an "importance confidence issue" that the opposition party was committed to the principle of consent enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Coaker said there was "no change" in his party's policy on Northern Ireland and that it supported the consent principle - that the people of Northern Ireland will determine their own fate - and its bi-partisan approach would continue.

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