Britain and Ireland will resume efforts to kickstart crisis talks between Northern Ireland’s Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist parties on Wednesday to try and save the British province’s power-sharing government.
Northern Ireland’s devolved administration is on the brink of collapse after a murder linked to former members of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA) prompted its first minister, Peter Robinson, to step aside.
Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the main pro-British party, will not commit to the negotiations until it is satisfied they will deal with paramilitary activities linked to Sinn Fein, their nationalist partner in government, who were formerly the political wing of the IRA.
“We want to be in the talks process but the talks must take place on a basis where we feel that we can get a satisfactory outcome,” Robinson told reporters after a meeting with Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers.
He said they had discussed a number of issues that the DUP thinks could help allow talks to begin but would await a speech by Villiers in Britain’s parliament on Tuesday before reaching a conclusion on participating.
The row has threatened to become the worst political crisis in the province since a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of violence between Catholic Irish nationalists and their Protestant rivals, in which 3,600 people were killed.
Sinn Fein says the IRA no longer exists, dismissing a police assessment that current and former members are still involved in criminal activity, and has said the party would not let the issue be a precondition of talks, which they say they will attend.
Villiers has said the IRA exists and that re-establishing an independent authority to look at the issue of disbanding paramilitary organisations was “one of the most credible ideas.”
Ireland’s foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, said on Sunday that some form of independent monitoring is needed and that it was “not simply good enough for politicians to say we’re clean.”