Belfast Telegraph

Strong leadership and honesty needed to solve political crisis

Editor's Viewpoint

It was a day of much scurrying around between Belfast, Dublin and London as momentum grew over the political crisis at Stormont, but ultimately it was a day when little was resolved and when the outlook seems to be for more and more talks even if the agenda is still nebulous.

For the DUP in particular it was a somewhat frustrating day. A move to adjourn the Assembly which is due to start work again next Monday failed when the UUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted down the proposal.

Senior party members led by First Minister Peter Robinson then went to Downing Street to urge the Prime Minister to suspend the Assembly until the crisis is resolved over the Chief Constable's statement that the IRA still exists and that current members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast recently.

While the Prime Minister agreed that the situation at Stormont is serious and that trust in the political process needs to be rebuilt, he gave no indication of a willingness to suspend the devolved administration.

Instead he asked the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, to begin urgent talks aimed at finding a way forward.

Of course, there remains in the background Mr Robinson's warning that it cannot be business as usual when the Assembly returns on Monday. It is unclear at this juncture what action he might take - although he indicated that it could be unilateral if the situation demanded it - to ensure that the institutions do not continue as normal.

The Secretary of State was in Dublin to meet the Irish Foreign Affairs and Justice Ministers but again the outcome was largely words of good intention rather than any suggestion of meaningful action.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was again unequivocal in his condemnation of the McGuigan murder, saying it had been carried out by criminals and violent dissidents and saying that anyone armed with a gun was not a friend of Sinn Fein. But even those sentiments will cut little ice with the unionist parties. With an election looming next year - or even sooner if the crisis deepens - they cannot be seen to go easy on Sinn Fein over the Chief Constable's statement.

News that the IRA still has structures in place and that members were involved in murder has shaken faith in the peace process and Sinn Fein has a very difficult task in convincing not only their political opponents but also the public at large that the gun has no place in republican politics and that the party distances itself from any violence associated with the IRA.

It is encouraging that the main message coming out of both London and Dublin is for intense talks to take place to ensure that the devolved administration does not fall. It is in no one's interest to bring down the Assembly. What we need is strong political leadership and honesty in the talks aimed at resolving the crisis.

We cannot allow a vacuum to be created which could be filled by evil men intent on reliving the violence of the past.

Belfast Telegraph


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