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DUP simply couldn't turn a blind eye to the IRA

Unilateral action may be messy, but it’s a tactic that will ultimately work, insists Simon Hamilton

Published 14/09/2015

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson announces the ministerial resignations at Stormont last week
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson announces the ministerial resignations at Stormont last week
Simon Hamilton

While I was only appointed as Health Minister a little over four months ago I thoroughly enjoyed my short spell in office.

Getting to grips with our biggest spending and highest profile government department was certainly a challenge but I am proud of the work I did on introducing the meningitis B vaccination, establishing an air ambulance service for Northern Ireland and creating a world-leading mental trauma service.

When I resigned my post last Thursday along with other DUP ministerial colleagues, I knew that I was leaving lots of unfinished work behind.

At the top of my in-tray was the need to transform our Health and Social Care system so that it can face up to the multiple challenges that lie ahead.

While I spent considerable time this summer contemplating how to advance much-needed reform and change in our health service, republicans, sadly, were plotting the murder of a man which has plunged our political process into the present crisis.

Bobby Storey yesterday accused unionists of wanting to wreck devolution.

I can understand Sinn Fein's desire to deflect attention away from their responsibility for the problems we face but that is no excuse for telling such blatant lies.

We are in the midst of one of the biggest threats to the existence to Stormont, not because of anything the DUP has done, but because the Provisional IRA still exists, has access to arms and has used them to murder Kevin McGuigan.

Let us also not forget that prior to the McGuigan murder and the Chief Constable pointing the finger of blame in the direction of the Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein have been threatening devolution with their immature and irresponsible opposition to welfare reform.

Northern Ireland is being deprived of nearly £10m every month as we have to pay for Sinn Fein - and SDLP - pig-headedness with fines from our already stretched budget. If I had had access to just one month's worth of fines while I was Health Minister I would have been able to help over 2,100 people get knee operations or more than 1,800 people receive hip operations.

Sinn Fein have not been taking government seriously for over two years as they've welshed on two different deals on welfare reform and robbed public services of over £150m in the process.

The DUP's actions in recent days have not jeopardised Stormont. They have been jeopardised by Sinn Fein bad faith on welfare reform and republican bad behaviour on Northern Ireland's streets.

I know that some will seek to criticise me for not remaining as minister especially in a department as important as health. The DUP wants to see locally accountable ministers taking decision on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.

We want an Assembly and Executive that works. Not one that is tarnished by the presence of parties associated with terror.

As much as many of us want to see power over health and housing and the economy in local hands, it cannot come at the expense of justice and democracy. We cannot turn a blind eye or say 'so what?'

A government that tolerates murder at the hands of the associates of a senior party in power is no government at all.

The DUP will not be found wanting when it comes to making Stormont work but our Assembly and our Executive will only deliver for the people of Northern Ireland if the Stormont House Agreement is implemented and an end is finally brought to the criminality of the Provisional IRA and all paramilitarism.

After the Kevin McGuigan murder, the DUP said it could not be business as usual. We have now taken steps to ensure that is the case.

We would have preferred a suspension or an adjournment of business but the other parties would not agree to this.Our unilateral action may be messy and ugly but it is a tactic to get the right outcome.

It's now time to stop focusing on the processes and start focusing on outcomes. The solution to our current difficulties lies in the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and new structures in place to deal with paramilitaries.

I trust the Government and the other parties are up to that challenge so that normal government can be restored to Northern Ireland and we can focus on improving our health service and building our economy.

Belfast Telegraph

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