Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson: we'd have moved to exclude Sinn Fein over policing threat

By Noel McAdam

The DUP would have bid to exclude Sinn Fein from the Executive had the party maintained its stance on "reviewing" its support for policing following Gerry Adams' arrest, it has emerged.

First Minister Peter Robinson revealed his party's intentions to accuse its power-sharing partner of a breach of the pledge of office over the threat.

It is likely to further sour already damaged relations with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who issued the warning that Sinn Fein could consider altering its commitment to the present policing arrangements had Mr Adams been charged by police.

But any Assembly move would have been unlikely to have succeeded because it would have been stopped in its tracks by a Sinn Fein petition of concern, requiring a majority among both unionists and nationalists to pass a vote.

Mr Robinson was asked at a Press conference launching his party's European and local government manifesto for the elections in just over a fortnight if the DUP had considered quitting the Executive over Sinn Fein's warning that it would "look again" at policing.

"Why would we leave the Executive because Sinn Fein breached the pledge of office? If Sinn Fein breached the pledge of office, they should be put out of Government.

"We would not be slow in bringing forward a motion for their exclusion. Indeed, if Sinn Fein had not corrected their position the motion would have gone down," he added.

He said he questioned whether Mr McGuinness had breached the pledge of office, which requires ministers to support the police and the rule of law.

But he added that he believed Sinn Fein had "corrected" its position since Mr Adams' release from police custody following four days of questioning over the IRA kidnapping and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy hit back at the DUP: "There was absolutely no basis for these comments from Peter Robinson. For decades unionists excluded nationalists and republicans from the political process in the North.

"It is clear that there are those within the leadership of the DUP who would love a return to the days of one-party unionist rule. That is simply not going to happen. There is no going back.

"The people of the North voted for the Good Friday Agreement and Government which is inclusive of all our people, and Sinn Fein won't allow the DUP to turn the clock back," the Newry and Armagh MP added.

Stormont Speaker William Hay came under fire after twin attempts to raise the fallout from the Gerry Adams arrest foundered in the Assembly.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was "disappointed but not surprised" that Mr Hay refused to accept a debate.

But Mr Hay accused Mr Allister of "electioneering" and said his remarks were "totally out of order".

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