NORTHERN IRELAND: Peter Robinson Resigns
Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has resigned in a crisis triggered by a murder linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader stepped down along with all but one of the party’s ministers from the power-sharing government in Belfast.
British prime minister David Cameron said he was “gravely concerned” about the development which follows the shooting of former IRA gunman Kevin McGuigan last month.
Police suspect members of the IRA were involved in the killing.
The DUP have been in power since 2007 alongside republicans Sinn Fein.
The latter was the political wing of the IRA paramilitary group during some 30 years of sectarian violence known as The Troubles in which 3,500 people died and which was largely ended by a peace deal in 1998.
Bobby Storey, a senior member of Sinn Fein, was arrested in relation to the August 12 murder and released on Thursday without charge.
“The continued existence of the IRA and the arrests that followed has pushed devolution to the brink,” Mr Robinson said as he announced he was stepping aside.
“The fact that a leading member, or leading members, of Sinn Fein have been associated with a murder indicates to us very clearly that those are unacceptable circumstances and we cannot do business as usual.”
Sinn Fein denies the IRA is still active, saying it “left the stage” after a 2005 ceasefire.
Mr Robinson’s resignation does not bring about the immediate collapse of the administration and he has asked a DUP colleague, Arlene Foster, to step in as acting first minister.
Earlier on Thursday, a cross-party committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against a DUP call for the assembly to be adjourned.
“If this action by the DUP is intended by them to create space for talks to begin next Monday, we will certainly do everything in our power to make that work,” said Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of Sinn Fein.
Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan said the parties should work together to give it “one final chance”, but admitted that they were running out of time with the power-sharing institutions “on the edge of the precipice”.
“If it collapses because people resign then the only way to move forward is on the basis of the rules which we agreed which means we go into election,” Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said.
He said power sharing was “fledgling, difficult but still better than war”.