EVIDENCE of Provisional IRA activity is strong enough to force the exclusion of Sinn Fein from Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has claimed.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party would push for Sinn Fein to be thrown out of the coalition administration if the republican party did not deal with the revelations about the involvement of some members of the Provisionals in a murder.
Mr Dodds indicated his party would be prepared to bring down the institutions if the issue was not dealt with “very speedily”.
He led a party delegation to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers in Belfast to discuss the political crisis sparked by the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan and a subsequent assessment by police chief George Hamilton that the Provisional IRA still exists and some of its members were involved in the killing.
Sinn Fein has rejected Mr Hamilton’s remarks and has insisted the IRA has “gone away”.
After the meeting at Stormont House, Mr Dodds said: “There is sufficient basis on what the chief constable is saying about IRA members being involved in violence and murder and that IRA organisation exists, for an exclusion motion to be put down.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of what the chief constable will say to us and what the government and others say to us but there is no reason at all, as things stand at the moment, why there should not be the exclusion of Sinn Fein on the basis of what the chief constable has already said .”
Mr Dodds added: “We raised with the secretary of state that it cannot be ‘business as usual’ until this matter is resolved and she agreed with us.”
The DUP’s main electoral rivals, the Ulster Unionists, are set to resign from the Stormont legislative assembly’s executive next week over the furore, claiming trust in Sinn Fein has been shattered.
While the dramatic walkout by one of the three minor coalition partners will not in itself trigger the collapse of the administration, it has thrown its future into serious doubt.
The row has heaped pressure on the DUP to follow suit – a move that would bring down powersharing.
Outlining the party’s position after what he described as a “constructive” discussion with Ms Villiers, Mr Dodds said the DUP wanted to exert pressure on Sinn Fein to deal with the issue.
Barring action from the republican party, he said the DUP would be pressing for the support of the government and remaining executive parties for an exclusion motion.
The Alliance Party and SDLP are not yet supporting the DUP calls for Sinn Fein’s exclusion.
Sinn Fein has accused the UUP of contriving a crisis in a bid to outflank the DUP ahead of next year’s Assembly poll.
It is almost 20 years since the Provisional IRA called a ceasefire and a decade after it reportedly decommissioned its weapons.