Nigel Farage: No place for terror in Northern Ireland politics
The spectre of terrorism must be driven out of Northern Ireland politics for good, Ukip's leader has said.
Nigel Farage was writing for the Belfast Telegraph ahead of a whistle-stop visit to Belfast today. He is jetting into the province on the latest leg of a UK-wide anti-EU tour.
Mr Farage arrives at a time of deepening crisis, with the Assembly on the verge of collapse after a political meltdown sparked by the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
The Ukip MEP said there can be no place for guns in politics.
"Whatever emerges from the talks process which is about to begin, one thing is clear. The Assembly - or the next Assembly - needs to be free once and for all from the spectre of terrorists in or near any of the parties of government," he wrote.
"The Assembly needs to be set free to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland, to focus on the very real economic and social issues which confront the province." Mr Farage said he believed there was support for the devolved administration.
But he said it must start delivering on the issues that matter to people.
"I am convinced people want devolution, but they want a devolution that works for people and which is not continually side-tracked by unresolved issues, emanating from the past conflict, which have distracted the Assembly and its Executive from dealing effectively with its very real day to day responsibilities," he adds. "Properly operated, devolution should bring major benefits to Northern Ireland, but Ukip wants to see a fully functioning, responsive, effective and efficient government in Northern Ireland.
"As a new kind of party, Ukip listens to voters and reflects their real, deeply-seated concerns, which in Northern Ireland include the impact uncontrolled immigration is having on their children's life chances and job opportunities, on their own access to GPs and the health service."
Ukip remains a relatively small operation in Northern Ireland. It has just one MLA - Strangford representative David McNarry, who serves as the party's leader in Northern Ireland.
It also has three councillors - David Jones, Noel Jordan and Henry Reilly.
Today's visit is part of Ukip's "Say No to the EU referendum tour", which will put forward arguments as to why British people should vote to leave the European Union.
It got under way this month and continues through to the end of November, hitting destinations across the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU will be held by the end of 2017, which opinion polls say is too close to call.