Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland parties in warning as new talks begin

By Staff Reporter

New political talks to save the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland start today, with the DUP warning that Stormont "is in the midst of one of the biggest threats to its existence".

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, former Health Minister Simon Hamilton said his party wanted "an Assembly and Executive that works. Not one that is tarnished by the presence of parties associated with terror."

He added: "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."

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party indicated its intention to take part in the intensive political talks taking part in the wake of an IRA-linked murder.

The UUP, which quit the Stormont Executive following the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan, criticised a negotiation initiative last week for not scheduling the murder as the first item on the agenda.

Now the coalition government is teetering on the brink of collapse after the DUP last week pulled the majority of its ministers out of the administration.

The new talks involving the main parties and the British and Irish governments will be convened by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at Stormont today.

They will focus on the fallout from the murder and a range of other destablising disputes threatening the future of the Executive, including the bitter impasse over implementing welfare reforms.

Police have said current members of the IRA were involved in last month's shooting of Mr McGuigan in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard "Jock" Davison in Belfast three months earlier.

The disclosures about the IRA have heaped pressure on Sinn Fein to explain why the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation is still in existence.

A UUP spokesman said: "The Ulster Unionist Party will enter talks, all things being equal.

"We have been consistent in our analysis of the dysfunction of the Executive during eight long years of Sinn Fein/DUP control. We wish to negotiate a fix, because this cannot be as good as it gets. We have imaginative ideas, including the pathway to unblocking welfare, which we proposed at the talks last week.

"We will continue to remain strong in standing up to Sinn Fein. That means the status of the IRA and Sinn Fein's denial must be addressed as a matter of urgency, not relegated to the bottom of the agenda, as it was this week.

"Nor can it be lumped into a 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed' process, because that would be to reduce the truth to a bargaining chip and the Ulster Unionist Party will not insult the suffering of victims and survivors by trading the truth against welfare reform or a balanced budget.

"We will meet the Secretary of State early on Monday to satisfy ourselves of the proper conditions for our full engagement in the new talks process."

Belfast Telegraph


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