Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein can help solve this mess by coming clean about the IRA, says Ukip's Farage

By Rebecca Black

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said Sinn Fein has a "heavy responsibility" on their shoulders to distance itself from the IRA - or see the Assembly collapse.

The English MEP was visiting Belfast yesterday during a tour of the UK as part of his campaign to withdraw from the EU, and met First Minister Peter Robinson as well as addressing the 300-strong crowd who were meeting about his opposition to the EU.

Mr Farage said his view, and that of Ukip's leader in Northern Ireland David McNarry, vis-à-vis the current Stormont crisis is to do "all we can to find a solution".

He said he believes the IRA still exists and that Sinn Fein must dissociate itself from them or the Assembly will collapse.

"If they are not prepared to do that then I think the risk is we move back to direct rule and I think that is a retrogade step and message for investors and people who have suffered," he said.

"Sinn Fein is going to have to give ground, and equally some of the unionist community may have to give a little too.

"At the end of the day, you may come to a position where it is out of the control of Sinn Fein over some of these groups, but they are going to need to be convinced there isn't a link.

"There is a heavy responsibility on their shoulders."

Turning to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, Mr Farage said he is no friend to Northern Ireland.

He said he felt "a mixture of shock and amusement" that Mr Corbyn had won.

"If I was born and raised in these parts I wouldn't be feeling too cock-a-hoop this morning. He is no friend to Northern Ireland," he said. "I think most of those who voted for him think they voted for some working class champion, and they are in for a bit of a surprise."

Mr Farage said he feels the new leader will come as a shock to large swathes of the Labour Party.

"This is a republican leading the Labour Party. Most Labour Party voters in the UK are very patriotic people and support the monarchy too," he said.

The Ukip leader will be touring the UK until next March when he said he believes a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU will be held.

Up to 300 places in a room at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast last night were snapped up within hours of being released. Mr Farage said they could have filled a much bigger room with Ulster residents who want to hear what he has to say on the EU.

"When I come back early next year, we will have to get an even bigger venue, people want to debate this stuff," he said.

"There will be questions from the farmers in particular. I completely understand that. Agriculture matters here and I will address that.

"Farmers were kept in business before the CAP (EU subsidies to farmers), we had mechanisms before that.

"Although I won't be so assuring to those who make money out of wind turbines, for the fishing communities I have good news, getting back territorial waters so we might see fewer Belgian and Dutch trawlers here."

Mr Farage began the tour last week in Margate before making Belfast the second date in his tour.

He said he would be back again before March, and again before the elections to the Assembly, set to take place next May.

When asked whether he was the most frequent visitor of all of the leaders of the UK parties, he said he has been here more often than even Prime Minister David Cameron.

"We are the UK Independence Party so we do take this seriously. This is my fourth visit in 20 months and my deputy Paul (Nuttall) comes regularly. Equally I'll be in Scotland and Wales too," he said.

In terms of the EU, Mr Farage said he feels a lot of people are sitting on the fence.

"We know who the yes side are, the big corporate businesses, most of the established political class, we understand that, but there are many who potentially could be on my side of the argument who are saying things like, 'Let's see what the Prime Minister comes back with', but the great danger of that is giving the other side a great big head start," he said.

"So we are taking the lead."

Ukip remains small in Northern Ireland with just one MLA, Mr McNarry, and three councillors, David Jones, Noel Jordan and Henry Reilly.

In terms of how far Mr Farage hopes his party's presence here grows following the Assembly elections, he would not be drawn.

"You ask me that when I come back and I'll answer it," he quipped.

Belfast Telegraph


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