Turmoil in Northern Ireland
As we go to press, the Northern Irish peace process faces one of its greatest challenges. First Minister Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party leader resigned his position in September, along with several other DUP ministers, following the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) claim that individual members of the Provisional IRA (PIRA) were involved in the killing of former republican prisoner Kevin McGuigan last August. According to news reports, some PIRA members believed McGuigan was responsible for the killing of former IRA commander Gerard “Jock” Davison in May.
George Hamilton, head of PSNI said that PIRA leadership did not sanction the murder of McGuigan, but his assertion that some structures of the organization still exist, led the more radical Ulster Unionist Party’s sole executive to resign his post, and the other twelve MLAs to withdraw urging the DUP to do so as well, citing an inability to trust Sinn Féin who deny the continued activity of PIRA members.
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the UUP were “playing fast and loose with the peace process,” and tweeted, “This decision by the UUP is more about inter Unionist rivalry than their & others feigned concern about our unequivocal commitment to #Peace.”
Robinson and the DUP initially resisted, and sought an intervention from Downing Street, but were refused, with British Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly asking the Assembly to find an acceptable solution on its own. But tensions reached a high point when the PSNI brought prominent Sinn Féin member Bobby Storey in for questioning in connection with the murder. Though he was released unconditionally a day later, Robinson under intense pressure from the UUP, resigned. Robinson retains his role as head of the DUP, but has appointed Minister of Finance Arlene Foster as acting First Minister, ostensibly allowing the Northern Irish Assembly to continue governance, but effectively causing a stalemate for the DUP – Sinn Féin power-sharing government.
“Isn’t it ridiculous that criminals, low-life murderers who killed two men have the ability to bring down these democratic institutions?” McGuinness asked.
Both Unionist parties argue that existence of the PIRA, violates the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and discredits their claim to non-violent governance. Yet they may be accused of ignoring the existence of other paramilitary organizations. A recent article in the New York Times, quoted a source as saying that there is abundant evidence that loyalist paramilitary groups are “not only still active, but have also been recruiting new members.”
According to the Guardian, Cameron and Robinson did discuss options “to comprehensively address all remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.” ♦
For more updates, visit IrishCentral.com.