Villiers rules out ‘business as usual’ at Stormont, says DUP

Situation in Northern Ireland over IRA is ‘profoundly difficult’, says deputy leader Nigel Dodds

Political Staff in Stormont

Northern Secretary Teresa Villiers does not believe "business as usual" is possible at Stormont as the row over the Provisional IRA continues, according to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Speaking after his party's meeting with Ms Villiers at Stormont House yesterday, Mr Dodds said the situation in Northern Ireland had been "profoundly difficult" since the PSNI Chief Constable, George Hamilton, said IRA members were involved in the killing of Kevin McGuigan.

“For us the basis of entry into government was that people were committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic methods of operation,” he said.


“That remains the basis on which government has to continue in Northern Ireland. 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 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) said on Wednesday it intended to leave the Executive, putting pressure on the DUP to act. The UUP called yesterday on the Northern Secretary to make a statement in parliament on the status of the Provisional IRA.

Describing the engagement with Ms Villiers as constructive, Mr Dodds said he intended to “keep the pressure” on Sinn Féin.

“We’re not going to let them off the hook. There are very serious issues that they have to address. Up to now they seem to be running away from those questions. We don’t intend to let them run away from them.”

He said his party was determined that, “one way or another”, there would be an administration in Northern Ireland “consisting of people totally committed to peaceful and democratic means only”.

He added: “If other parties do not step up to the plate with us or if the government does not take sufficient action to deal with this matter, then we will bring about the circumstances to create the time and space in which this matter will be resolved.”

Mr Dodds said if Sinn Féin did not deal with the situation, his party would move to have them excluded, and devolved government would not continue on that basis.

He said the DUP had asked for a meeting with British prime minister David Cameron and was he was hopeful it would take place "very soon".

His party had also raised with Ms Villiers the issue of the “revocation of licences” of people who had been convicted of very serious crimes, such as murder, and were out of prison on licence.

“We urged the Secretary of State along with the police to give the speediest consideration to the revocation of licences of anyone involved in and around the murder of Kevin McGuigan and indeed other crimes as well.”

Mr Dodds said there was “sufficient basis” to put down a motion to exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive. Cross-party support would be required for such a motion to succeed. There was no comment from Ms Villiers.

SDLP representatives who also met the Northern Secretary ruled out backing a motion to exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive, saying they would require more evidence of IRA involvement in the killing of Mr McGuigan.

They said that while they had sympathy with UUP over the issue, they believed the party had acted prematurely.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said his party would not make a “knee-jerk” decision.

The Alliance Party's Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, warned: "There's a very real danger in us ending up in a zero-sum game, where it's almost either Sinn Féin go or the DUP go."

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times