1st September 2015
DUP calls for
Stormont adjournment rejected
A DUP motion to have the Stormont Assembly adjourned for four weeks amid crisis talks has been rejected.
The party had sought to delay the return of Stormont after the summer recess to allow for discussions over claims about the Provisional IRA.
However a DUP spokesman said the bid was “not successful”.
Sinn Féin welcomed the news that the business committee had rejected the adjournment and accused the DUP and UUP of being involved in a “pantomime”.
DUP Chief Whip Peter Weir spoke following the decision, saying: “Despite recent tough talking from the UUP they chose to join forces with Sinn Féin today to facilitate a normal business as usual approach at Stormont next week.
“It is becoming clear that the decision to leave the Executive is merely self serving and totally hypocritical.
“The UUP obviously won’t
be assisting in any attempt to actually punish Sinn Féin for the
wrongdoing of republicans.”
Not Sinn Féin’s
job to solve crime, says McDonald
Deputy leader admits ‘concern’ that ex-IRA members may be involved in criminality
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has said it is not the job of her party to solve crime.
Ms McDonald said politicians north and south of the Border had been very quick to seize on two brutal murders and two grieving families, following the murder of Gerard “Jock” Davison and Kevin McGuigan in Belfast.
Ms McDonald said there was a “legitimate concern” that “some former IRA members” might be involved in criminal actions.
“There seems to be a line of inquiry of the murder of Kevin McGuigan that an IRA person may have been involved,” she said in Dublin on Monday.
“If that is the case and if that is established, that person or those people must be pursued, apprehended and prosecuted just as any other person would be.
“There is nowhere for people to hide now; there is nobody in Sinn Féin holding a candle for anybody who carries out a brutal attack such as murder.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and other politicians have called for Sinn Féin to do more to ensure those who may have evidence on murders should hand it over to the authorities.
Ms McDonald insisted it was not the job of Sinn Féin to solve crime or bring people to justice.
“There has to be a reality check as well around the expectations that Sinn Féin is to answer for every misdemeanour, for every criminal act, everything that goes wrong in certain parts of the country,” Ms McDonald said.
“That is not a reasonable ask . . . Our commitment to policing North and South is absolute and final.”
However, she said the party would “use whatever influence we have to ensure people support the police and act accordingly”.
Renua leader Lucinda Creighton criticised Ms McDonald’s comments and said the issue came down to whether one believed Sinn Féin or the Garda.
Ms Creighton said: “I have to say I would side with An Garda Síochána. ”
She said there was now a risk to the peace process in Northern Ireland and all political parties needed to show leadership.
She added: “Unfortunately that
leadership is lacking from Sinn Féin.”
silent on Stormont options
The secretary of state's office was last night refusing to spell out what options are available to the British government for dealing with the growing crisis at Stormont.
Ahead of DUP leader Peter Robinson's meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron today, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was sticking with the oft-repeated line that Theresa Villiers remains committed to the devolved institutions and the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.
Over recent days, the DUP has placed the onus for dealing with the fall-out from the Kevin McGuigan murder on Mrs Villiers and the British government. The party has said it would like to see Sinn Féin excluded, though it has yet to specify how exactly this should happen.
The DUP knows that an assembly motion to oust republicans is unlikely to get the necessary cross community backing, which is why responsibility for excluding Sinn Féin falls on the secretary of state.
While the NIO would not confirm how the process might work, it is understood Mrs Villiers can seek to exclude a party by direction.
However, the power that enables the British government to suspend Stormont was removed in the St Andrews Agreement in a bid to enhance stability. To instate that power would require emergency legislation at Westminster.
The secretary of state does, however,
have power to dissolve the assembly and call an election.
'could bring down the Assembly'
Peter Robinson has called for a “proper, intensive talks process” to provide a firm basis for government as the present political circumstances are "dangerous" and have the potential to bring down the Assembly.
It comes as the UUP made the decision to quit the Executive over concerns about the PSNI assessment that the Provisional IRA still exists and that members played a part in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand.
Leader Mike Nesbitt said the party plans to form an opposition at Stormont.
The First Minister earlier said the UUP’s decision is “irresponsible” and accused them of playing party politics.
Mr Nesbitt accused him of not taking a “principled stand”.
Speaking on Monday, the DUP leader said the job of any politician in Northern Ireland is to try and move the region forward.
Mr Robinson said he wants to see the Executive remain but he wants to see it do so on “proper terms” and said there is “clearly a need for change”.
He said the government already faced the “massive problem” of welfare, which has been rumbling on for many months.
“We now have to deal with the relationship between paramilitary organisations and members of the Executive,” he said.
“The old rules which the Chief Constable looks at is whether it (Mr McGuigan’s murder) has been sanctioned centrally by the Provisional IRA leadership.
“I think we’ve moved past that. This is local leadership taking the decision almost in the absence of a decision by what was the Army Council.
“It’s unacceptable after so many years of the process that we’ve been involved in, so I would hope that there will be a principled stand taken by other parties in Northern Ireland that we have to do away with paramilitary organisations.
“They have to be a thing of the past.
“I believe that we need a proper intensive talks process to see if these issues can be resolved because if they are not resolved then there isn’t a firm basis for us to proceed with government.”
When asked how he would propose a talks process begins, Mr Robinson replied: “It’s a process of the willing. Some people are dodging their responsibility – they’re running away.
“It will be entirely a matter for the government as to who is invited to that talks process. We’re making it clear it’s needed and we’re willing to play a full part in it.”
The DUP has been pushing for a motion of exclusion against Sinn Féin as a repercussion of the IRA “going back on its ceasefire”.
But the First Minister said excluding Sinn Féin from the Executive was out of the question because the party “has the numbers to ensure that they can black that decision in the Assembly”.
He added only the Secretary of State has that power and she can only do so for two weeks.
Police said they believe the shooting dead of Mr McGuigan over a fortnight ago in the Short Strand area of east Belfast was a “revenge” for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in May.
Questions have been raised over exactly what the assessment of the PIRA means and whether it marks a significant departure from the paramilitary grouping’s previous status.
Sinn Féin refutes the claim that the IRA still exists and has accused unionists of playing party politics.
The First Minister will meet Prime Minister
David Cameron to discuss a resolution to the current crisis. He will also
meet other parties and the Irish government.
DUP to call
for revival of Northern Ireland ceasefire monitoring system
Democratic Unionists will raise possibility with David Cameron as a way of saving Stormont power-sharing government from collapse
Northern Ireland’s largest party, the Democratic Unionists, will raise the possibility of reviving a ceasefire monitoring system with David Cameron as one means of saving the power-sharing government in Belfast from collapse, an MP said on Monday.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said restoring the Independent Monitoring Commission was one of several possible outcomes of new talks aimed at halting the breakup of the cross-community coalition at Stormont.
The DUP leadership will hold crisis talks with Cameron in Downing Street on Tuesday.
The DUP’s rivals, the Ulster Unionists, moved from government into opposition after its ruling executive met on Saturday. The party was reacting to the assessment of the region’s chief constable, George Hamilton, who said the previous weekend that the murder of ex-republican prisoner Kevin McGuigan was carried out by Provisional IRA (PIRA) members in August. Hamilton, however, stressed that the killing was not sanctioned by the PIRA leadership.
Unionists of all hues believe the chief constable’s analysis entails a major breach of faith between Sinn Féin and the other parties because the PIRA was supposed to have been run down as a military organisation back in 2005 as part of moves towards power-sharing.
The UUP’s decision drew sharp criticism from the first minister and DUP, leader Peter Robinson, earlier on Monday. Robinson accused the UUP of running away from the political battlefield and acting irresponsibly.
Robinson wrote in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph: “Exiting the field of play is not a tactically clever first option – it can only ever be a last resort.”
He added: “This is not the time to flee the battlefield, it is the time to confront violent republicanism, to stand and fight for democratic principles and to do what is right for the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland who want to see our country prosper and reach its full potential.”
In a sign of increasing rancour between the two unionist parties, the UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt, said, referring to Robinson military metaphor, that the first minister had “no battlefield under his command”.
Nesbitt added: “Does he think the people of Northern Ireland have such short memories that they do not recall that when the DUP flip-flopped on their ‘never, never, never, never’ stance regarding sharing power with Sinn Féin, they promised ‘a battle a day’?... The UUP would not be deflected by ill-thought out soundbites from the leader of the DUP.”
Ahead of the DUP’s meeting with the prime minister, Jeffrey Donaldson said one “favoured outcome” of new negotiations aimed at solving the crisis was some form of monitoring mechanism that could report on and deter future breaches of ceasefires.
The Lagan Valley MP told the Guardian: “The first thing we need is a process to start to deal with these issues. That (a new monitoring commission) would be one but not the only desired outcome. If there is going to be a new monitoring mechanism for paramilitaries it has to be one that has teeth.
“Through the week we will outline our responses to what has happened but we are very clear that it will not be business as usual. There can no doubt about that.”
Sinn Féin has accused the UUP of early electioneering by pulling out of government as a means to outflank the DUP and appear more hardline. The party will seize upon the latest verbal war between the two unionist parties as further evidence that the current crisis destabilising the power sharing settlement is at heart a product of inter-unionist political rivalry.
On Sunday, the former first minister and Nobel peace prize-winner David Trimble suggested that the body that once examined and monitored paramilitary ceasefires be reconstituted. Lord Trimble argued that reviving the Independent Monitoring Commission would act as a deterrent against further violence from supposedly defunct paramilitary forces.
The IMC was created in the late 1990s to not only monitor IRA and loyalist organisations but also act as a political deterrent against any return to violence.
It was wound up after the PIRA leadership
announced in 2005 that it was disbanding as a military movement and later
disarmed most of its huge illegal arsenal. The monitoring group was comprised
of former security officials from the British police, the CIA and the Garda
for Johnny Adair and Sam McCrory murder plot
Three men have been jailed for planning to murder two former leaders of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Antoin Duffy, 39, his cousin Martin Hughes, 36, and Paul Sands, 32, had denied plotting to kill Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair and Sam McCrory in Scotland.
They were convicted in July following a nine-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, where Duffy and Hughes were also convicted of terrorism charges.
Duffy was jailed for 17 years, Hughes for 11 years and Sands for 10 years.
Two other men, Craig Convery and Gordon Brown, were found guilty of organised crime charges.
Convery was jailed for nine years and Brown for six years.
The court heard that Mr Adair and his best friend Mr McCrory were both former members of prohibited Loyalist terror organisations the UDA and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).
They were involved in the Good Friday agreement in 1998, and both have been living in Ayrshire for a number of years.
Duffy, originally from Donegal, who had been living in Scotland, was the driving force behind the murder plot.
Described as passionate about a united Ireland, he believed the peace agreement had sold out the Republican movement.
Duffy initially planned operations from his cell in Castle Huntly open prison having been jailed in 2010 for brandishing a loaded handgun in a Glasgow nightclub during a dispute with a bouncer.
Every four weeks, when he received home leave back to his flat in Old Castle Road, Glasgow, Duffy talked to criminal associates in a bid to obtain weapons.
He also enlisted his cousin, Martin Hughes, and recruited fellow prisoner Paul Sands - a Facebook friend of Mr McCrory - who knew about McCrory's daily routine.
What the men did not know, however, was that MI5 had learned of their plans and had authorised the bugging of Duffy's flat and Hughes' car.
The surveillance began in 12 December 2012 and was later handed over to Police Scotland.
The court heard that Duffy believed Mr Adair and Mr McCrory were responsible for ordering the murders of dozens of innocent Catholics during the Troubles.
Evidence was presented that he wanted to shoot Mr McCrory using a pistol or revolver and then quickly target Mr Adair using an AK 47, which he dubbed "the big fella".
In a bugged conversation he was heard boasting to his girlfriend Stacey McAllister: "I'm trying to get a war started and get as many guns and explosives as I can."
A recording was also played from a conversation in Hughes' Mercedes Jeep, which travelled from Glasgow to the Ayrshire home of Mr McCrory on 1 October 2013.
On the tape Sands said: "There are so many places you could hit this guy. It's unbelievable."
As the Jeep approached the street in which McCrory lived, Sands was heard to say: "This is the road he walks every single day. You can't go wrong. It is a straight road."
There were then discussions about cameras at a nearby school and shops and the best vantage points to get their target.
Duffy went on: "We'll just drive up to him and...blast him. In his ear.
"There 's an AK that could possibly be getting made available for us with armour piercing rounds."
Duffy's cellmate in Castle Huntly, Edward McVeigh, 27, revealed that Duffy hated Adair and talked of shooting him as he walked his dog or trained at the gym.
He said that Duffy was a Republican sympathiser who claimed he was a member of the Real IRA.
The trial also heard that Duffy even approached Celtic player Anthony Stokes in the Brazen Head pub in Glasgow on 1 September, asking him to get his father to pass a message on to someone in Ireland to obtain weapons.
Regulars reacted furiously to this and Duffy was thrown out of the pub.
In evidence Mr McCrory admitted that the killing of him and Mr Adair would be "huge scalps for dissident Republican groups".
Mr Adair said that in October 2013 he returned from holiday to be told by police that his life was in danger from dissident Republicans and to step up his security.
He added: "All that was supposed to be over, but from their point of view I would see myself as a target as a leader of Loyalism."
QC Derek Ogg, representing Duffy, claimed that his client was a fantasist and a drug addict with mental health issues.
Hughes' QC Gordon Jackson said his client had not agreed to murder anyone while Sands' QC, Donald Findlay, said his client was "a total idiot".
The jury, however, did not believe the
three men's claims and convicted them of conspiracy to murder.
'irresponsible and illogical' – Robinson
Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson has called the decision by the Ulster Unionist Party to leave the Northern Ireland Executive as irresponsible and illogical.
Mr Robinson said he intends to stand and fight for democratic principles.
He is due to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron tomorrow.
In an article in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson also criticised Sinn Féin saying those who are in government cannot be involved with those who engage in criminal or paramilitary activity.
On Saturday, senior UUP members voted to withdraw from the power-sharing government over claims the Provisional IRA still exists.
Party leader Mike Nesbitt said the revelations about the IRA have shattered trust in Sinn Féin and the UUP can no longer work in coalition with it.
Danny Kennedy, the UUP's one minister in a five-party administration comprising 13 ministers and two junior ministers, will formally resign this week.
The UUP's decision is not enough to collapse the executive but is does throw its future into doubt and brings pressure on the DUP to follow suit.
So far the DUP has insisted Sinn Féin should be the party leaving the executive.
The controversy began after PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the PIRA still exists and some members were involved in the murder earlier this month of Kevin McGuigan, 53, in co-operation with a group styling itself Action Against Drugs.
Mr Hamilton has, however, said the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism and there is no evidence the murder was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.
Yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Charlie Flanagan said its important every effort is made by political leaders
to retain the political institutions in Northern Ireland.
London attempt to avoid collapse of Stormont
British and Irish governments anxious to hear Robinson’s views on new proposals
The British and Irish governments will this week make a determined effort to ascertain whether the DUP and Sinn Féin can arrive at a political arrangement that would avert the collapse of the Northern Executive and Assembly.
A series of high-level ministerial meetings are scheduled, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny also due to make a keynote speech that will address the crisis threatening Stormont since the alleged involvement of the IRA in the Belfast murder of republican Kevin McGuigan.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Sinn Féin had a particular responsibility to assist a resolution. “Normal politics will only be introduced on this island fully if Sinn Féin uses its influence and its exhortation to ensure the IRA is put firmly out of business,” he said yesterday.
Dublin and London will be examining the assessment of the political situation being made by First Minister Peter Robinson today as he returns from holidays to establish whether the DUP can be persuaded to remain in the Northern Executive alongside Sinn Féin.
Mr Robinson and the DUP are under considerable pressure to exit the Executive after Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt last week decided to withdraw his Minister Danny Kennedy from the Stormont Executive. The proposal was unanimously endorsed by the UUP’s ruling executive on Saturday.
Mr Nesbitt said the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton’s assessment that the IRA still existed and that IRA members were involved in the murder of Mr McGuigan, albeit without the sanction of the IRA leadership, had “shattered” trust in Sinn Féin.
“We believe the situation is not irretrievable and that there is still a bit more time to see if it can be rescued,” said a senior source yesterday.
It is understood Mr Robinson will be outlining his response to the chief constable’s assessment about the IRA and the murder of Mr McGuigan in today’s Belfast Telegraph.
“We expect the rhetoric to be condemnatory but we will also be looking out for any signals that indicate some resolution could be found,” the source added.
The British and Irish governments are conscious that Mr Nesbitt’s unilateral move has put severe pressure on Mr Robinson but they are also working on the consideration that he won’t want to be seen as being outmanoeuvred by the UUP leader, and that at the very least he will allow some time to determine whether there is any way out of this crisis.
Dublin and London will this week seek to facilitate a resolution. The Northern Secretary, Theresa Villiers, will discuss the situation with Mr Flanagan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in Dublin tomorrow. The issue will be high on the agenda of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
The DUP is due to meet British prime minister David Cameron shortly, possibly this week, while on Friday Mr Kenny will speak in Cambridge at a conference of the British Irish Association, which Ms Villiers is also due to attend.
The current focus by the governments
is to establish the value of convening all-party talks that would not only
address the fallout from the PSNI assessment about the IRA but would examine
whether Sinn Féin would be prepared to deal with the deadlock over
welfare reform that is also threatening Stormont.
minister slams 'car crash' politics
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has described the political situation at Stormont as "grave" adding that there was no benefit in "car crash politics".
Speaking ahead of a planned meeting with Secretary of State Teresa Villiers this week Mr Flanagan said people did not believe Sinn Féin when they denied the existence of the IRA and that instead the party would be better served to use influence to help disband the organisation.
"I believe that normal politics will only be introduced on this island fully if Sinn Féin uses its influence to ensure that the IRA is put firmly out of business", Mr Flanagan added.
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood criticised the UUP decision to withdraw but said Sinn Féin also had a responsibility for the failing institutions.
"Republicans too have failed the
(Good Friday) Agreement. Breaches on decommissioning, holding back on policing
and now on the NCA (National Crime Agency), the murders of Paul Quinn and
Robert McCartney, repeated denials by Sinn Féin of the truth of the
IRA's past show how it is not only some in political unionism who cling
to the past. All of this has eroded the confidence of pro-agreement unionism.
Current denials by Sinn Féin only erode it more."
asks gardaí to trace IRA cash
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has called on gardaí to examine where money held or obtained by the Provisional IRA has been placed, amid ongoing criticism from Sinn Féin over political attacks on the party.
The senior Cabinet member made the request as her Fine Gael party colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he is opposed to “car crash politics” before a crunch meeting with Northern Ireland’s secretary of state Theresa Villiers tomorrow.
Ms Fitzgerald said at the weekend she is “extremely concerned” that alleged criminality by former members of the Provisional IRA has the potential to “subvert democracy and law and order”.
In particular, the justice minister said she is “hugely concerned” about “the proceeds of crime and where it is finding its way to” and that she wants this to form part of any Garda investigation into the alleged ongoing existence of the Provisional IRA.
The claimed continuation of the paramilitary organisation in some form, despite its 2005 decommissioning, has caused uproar on both sides of the border since it was stated by PSNI chief constable Brian Hamilton 10 days ago.
However, speaking on Newstalk radio yesterday, Dublin-based Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin said the question of where the money now rests is another attempt to damage his party.
Mr Ó Broin said if any Government
member has information about the funds “they need to give that information
to An Garda Síochána or the PSNI and let the police system”
handle the matter, adding “it is telling ministers are giving this
information to Sunday newspapers” instead of to investigating officers.
home of James Connolly to be turned into museum and interpretive centre
Socialist and Easter Rising leader's West Belfast house could be major tourist attraction, it is claimed
The Northern Ireland home of influential socialist and Easter Rising leader James Connolly is to be turned into a museum and interpretive centre.
Plans have been set in motion to convert the house, off the Falls Road in West Belfast, into an attraction which is hoped to include recreating what it would have looked like when Connolly lived there as well as digital archives and other exhibits.
The move is understood to be backed by a number of trade unions given Connolly’s position as a founding father of the trade union movement in Ireland and is being driven by the Fáilte Feirste Thiar or Visit West Belfast group.
Those behind the plans are to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money, but in a move that may provoke some controversy given Connolly’s republican credentials, Belfast City Council is also to be asked to provide around £250,000 in funding.
Connolly, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising, lived in Belfast for around two years from 1910 when he was a union organiser in the city.
Jim McVeigh, a Sinn Fein councillor and trade union rep, is involved in the project.
He told Belfast Live it is expected that to buy the building, which is currently a dental surgery, renovate and extend it will cost around £1 million.
He added: “We think there’s huge heritage and tourism value in this house. James Connolly was such a significant figure not only in the trade union movement in Ireland, but internationally as well. That’s why this could attract people from across the spectrum. It could be used by schools for education as well as adding to the already existing tourism there is in West Belfast.”
Cllr McVeigh added that the “emphasis” will not be Connolly’s role as a leader of the Rising but on his role in the trade union movement and international socialism.
It is expected that the centre will not be ready ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Rising next year, however the Sinn Fein representative added that a large bronze statue of Connolly is to unveiled on the Falls in time for the centenary. The statue is to be erected outside the Falls Community Council.
Asked about the potential political fallout over Belfast Council funding of the project, Cllr McVeigh said he expects there will be some but added that a presentation of the plans made to councillors, including some unionist reps, did not prompt any immediate negative reaction.
He added: “I just think this is
a very valuable project where people will learn about what Connolly stood
for, about anti-sectarianism, trade union values about how there’s
more that unites us than divides us.”
UUP vote to
leave the Executive
Minister Danny Kennedy will step down and the party will now form an opposition at Stormont
The Ulster Unionist Party have voted to withdraw from Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government over claims the Provisional IRA still exists.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt proposed the exit in response to a PSNI assessment that structures of the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation remain in place and some of its members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan earlier this month.
The UUP’s ruling executive approved Mr Nesbitt’s recommendation at a meeting in an east Belfast hotel.
The UUP’s one minister, Danny Kenndey, in a five-party administration comprising 13 ministers and two junior ministers will formally resign next week.
The party will then form an opposition in the Assembly.
Mr Nesbitt has said the revelations about the IRA have shattered trust in Sinn Fein and the UUP can no longer work in coalition with the republican party.
Mr Nesbitt, who was given a rousing reception as he arrived for the party meeting in east Belfast, has said the revelations have shattered trust in Sinn Fein.
He said the UUP can no longer work in coalition with the republican party.
Around 90 members of the UUP’s ruling executive gathered for the meeting in the Park Avenue Hotel.
Their endorsement was seen by most as a foregone conclusion.
A walkout by one of the three minor coalition partners will not in itself trigger the collapse of the Executive, but it will throw its future into serious doubt.
Mr Nesbitt’s announcement has heaped pressure on the DUP to follow suit - a move that would bring down power sharing.
But they have insisted Sinn Fein should be the party leaving the Executive, not unionists.
But the largest unionist party has made clear it will walk away if action is not taken to punish Sinn Fein.
The furore was sparked after PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said the PIRA still exists and some members were involved in the murder earlier this month of Kevin McGuigan, 53, in co-operation with a group styling itself Action Against Drugs.
However, Mr Hamilton said the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism - instead pursuing peaceful, political republicanism - and said there is no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.
Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of former IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in Belfast three months ago.
Police believe his killing was a revenge attack by Mr Davison’s republican associates.
Sinn Fein, which refutes the claim the IRA still exists, has accused the UUP of contriving a crisis in a bid to outflank the DUP ahead of next year’s Assembly poll.
The UUP has also found itself accused of hypocrisy by critics who have pointed to the fact it co-operated with political representatives of loyalist paramilitaries as part of a pan unionist/loyalist approach to a parading dispute last year.
It is almost 20 years since the Provisional IRA’s last ceasefire and a decade on from the supposed decommissioning of its weapons.
Mr Hamilton has, however, said the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism - instead pursuing peaceful, political republicanism - and that there is no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.
Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of former IRA leader Gerard "Jock" Davison in Belfast three months ago.
Police believe his killing was a revenge attack by Mr Davison's republican associates.
Mr Nesbitt claimed Sinn Fein's continued insistence that the IRA no longer exists means his party cannot trust what they say.
He said the UUP would now offer an "alternative" to the current Stormont government.
"Sinn Fein's position with regard to the murder of Mr McGuigan has broken all faith and trust," he said.
"Until that trust is restored and
we find mechanisms to verify trust we cannot work in government with Sinn
says North may need peace watchdog
Group could assess alleged IRA activity, says former IMC observer Dick Kerr
A former member of the defunct Northern Ireland watchdog that monitored whether paramilitaries adhered to the peace process has said it is “not unreasonable” to set up a similar body to assess alleged IRA activity.
Dick Kerr, a member of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which assessed the IRA’s commitment to peace from 2004 to 2011, said there was a role for an independent group to resolve whether the IRA or former members acting on their own were involved in killings.
Mr Kerr (79), a former deputy director of the CIA, was speaking to The Irish Times as Northern Ireland faces its worst political crisis in years. Unionist parties are threatening to collapse the powersharing Stormont government over the alleged activity of the Provisional IRA.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has said the Provisional IRA still exists and that some of its members were involved in the killing of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast this month, but that the killing was not sanctioned by the organisation.
Mr Kerr has mixed views on whether the IMC was wound up prematurely in 2011.
It gave its final assessment in its 25th report that the IRA was dormant and committed to politics, not violence.
“[The IMC] could have been continued a little longer to reassure people,” he said. “It may have run its course too.”
He said the IRA “still had to be in existence in some ways to shut it down”.
Most members “went off and did other things” – some went into politics, some went into crime, he said.
An independent group rather than the
police – who “have their own interests and are not fully trusted”
– might be better placed to say whether activity is led by the IRA
or individuals acting alone.
Top SF figure
Sean ‘Spike’ Murray still under investigation over IRA gun-running
A senior Sinn Fein figure who was part of the party’s delegation to meet the chief constable a week ago is still under investigation by the PSNI over alleged gun-running, police have confirmed.
Sean ‘Spike’ Murray was a top figure in the IRA and is now a key Sinn Fein representative in Belfast.
More than a year ago, BBC Spotlight broadcast an interview with former IRA gun-runner Mike Logan, who alleged that he sent guns to Murray over several years.
Crucially, Logan alleged that he had done so – at Murray’s request – after the IRA’s ceasefire in 1997.
Murray declined to be interviewed by Spotlight but in a statement said that the accusations were “without foundation”.
Among the weapons which Logan says he sent to Belfast were Glock handguns, a weapon which he claimed Murray told him the IRA did not have any of at that point.
Last week police investigating the murder of Kevin McGuigan arrested 53-year-old Patrick Fitzpatrick and he has since appeared in court on a firearms charge after police recovered a Glock pistol.
The day after the Spotlight broadcast, the News Letter asked the PSNI if it would investigate the allegations. After several hours, the PSNI said it would not be making any comment on the issue, giving the impression that police were not enthusiastic about a new investigation.
But just an hour later, the PSNI said: “PIRA gun-running from Florida is now subject to reinvestigation which will include an examination of existing evidence together with the examination of any potential new evidence that has come to light in the last few days.”
On Friday the News Letter asked the PSNI for an update on its investigation. A spokesman said: “Police inquiries are continuing.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The claims that the PSNI accept that Sinn Fein support the rule of law are put in context when one recalls that Murray was part of the republican delegation to meet the chief constable on Saturday past. “
He added: “The more one examines the unfolding crisis at Stormont th