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Robinson says next week will tell whether Assembly falls or is rescued


DUP leader Peter Robinson

DUP leader Peter Robinson

DUP leader Peter Robinson

Next week is kill or cure time for the proposed talks, according to DUP leader Peter Robinson.

Yesterday he met Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to see if she would meet his preconditions for attending round-table talks by Monday.

If she doesn't, he believes "there might be real benefit for us, perhaps next Tuesday when the business committee meets, in moving an adjournment motion again. Maybe with the experiences of the last week they might want to look more favourably on our proposal".

The "experiences of the last week" were the resignation of DUP ministers and the party's reduced activity in the Assembly. However, the other parties have twice voted against the idea of suspension, with only Alliance supporting him. He would need to win over the UUP and/or SDLP.

Mr Robinson said: "If we can't get a proper basis for talks to take place and there isn't an outcome then clearly that spells an end to the Assembly. I am an optimist by nature. I think there is a way through.

"I believe that we have been able to show the Secretary of State the importance of these issues and I hope therefore that, being a sensible person, she will take the necessary steps."

Yesterday Mr Robinson refused to spell out his demands in detail, but it is known that he wants a clampdown on paramilitary activity and rackets such as fuel laundering run by them. He also wants an IMC-type body set up to monitor progress.

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He gave a hint that he is asking Westminster to run the crackdown through such UK-wide agencies as the National Crime Agency, Revenue and Customs and MI5.

Mr Robinson said: "It is not just the five parties who were on the Executive, and indeed in the Assembly, who have responsibility for policing issues.

"The Government has a separate responsibility on national security grounds and therefore I think there is a requirement for us to see the colour of the Government's money, its intentions and seriousness."

Unlike some other unionists Mr Robinson has not put great emphasis on getting Sinn Fein to admit that there are still IRA structures. He explained: "I am going to believe the official intelligence-based report that I get either from the Chief Constable or someone else who has looked at the files.

"Politicians don't have, other than people coming to them and providing them with information, the type of intelligence that is needed to make that kind of assessment."

However, the DUP leader has been a member of the privy council since 2007 and as such he should have received regular intelligence briefings. Ms Villiers has previously stated that her intelligence advisers always told her the IRA was in existence. Meanwhile, in a tactical move last night, the DUP renominated its resigned ministers back in to their jobs, only for them to quit again almost immediately.

If the party had not taken the step within seven days of last week's mass walkout then the portfolios would have been allocated to other parties.

An on-going cycle of renominating within a week, and resigning again, will mean the posts will remain effectively vacant until the DUP decide otherwise.

It is understood DUP ministers signed off on some pressing departmental business in the period they briefly resumed their roles.

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