Belfast Telegraph

Stormont crisis: 'There can be no preconditions to talks' - Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister says election has to be next step if talks fail

Martin McGuinness has said there can be no preconditions to all-party talks aimed at saving the powersharing institutions.

The Deputy First Minister also claimed the Secretary of State was aware of the PSNI's intention to arrest Bobby Storey before officers swooped on the senior republican.

Mr Storey, the northern chairman of the republican party was arrested last Wednesday along with two other republicans.

They were later released unconditionally.

The arrest brought Stormont to the brink of collapse with UUP and DUP ministers leaving the Executive. Finance Minister Arlene Foster has been appointed as Acting First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said his ministers would be renominated and immediately resign in a bid to prevent nationalists and republicans taking the seats.

Yesterday, Mr Storey hit back, accusing unionists of "cynically" using his arrest to pull down the political institutions.

He compared the IRA to that of a caterpillar which had transformed into a butterfly and "flown away".

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Speaking on Monday at Stormont, Martin McGuinness said there could be no preconditions set for the talks needed to progress.

Mr McGuinness said: "I do think that as we enter into these discussions that it is very, very important that we do so on the basis of no preconditions.

"And I want to see, and am working for, talks to take place with a view to a successful outcome.

"But if talks are not going to take place and if talks do take place and there is no successful outcome then, in my view, the next logical step is to an election, and that is my very firm and strong view. Our party has no fear whatsoever of an election."

The Sinn Fein veteran said the choice for the parties boiled down to achieving success in the talks or facing the electorate at the polls.

"That is the stark choice facing all of the parties in this process," he said.

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Mike Nesbitt says the status of the IRA has to be made clear by Sinn Fein.

Earlier, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said Sinn Fein's attitude to whether the IRA is still in business would "kill or cure" powersharing in Northern Ireland.

He made the assessment as he emerged from his party's bilateral meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers at Stormont House.

Mr Nesbitt urged against round-table talks until Sinn Fein's stance had been established.

"We have cautioned against holding a round-table discussion at this time until the Secretary of State gets a feel of where others, particularly Sinn Fein, are with regard to the way forward," he said.

The latest crisis to beset the faltering administration was sparked by the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

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 police assess that the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation is still in existence.

Sinn Fein insists the IRA has gone away and has accused the two unionist parties of contriving a crisis for electoral gain.

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