Ireland and Britain set Northern Irish crisis talks next week

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 03, 2015 1:39 PM

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The British and Irish governments will start talks next week with Northern Ireland's political parties to try to avert a crisis over a murder linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the country's prime ministers said on Thursday.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson this week asked British Prime Minister David Cameron to suspend Belfast's Assembly for four weeks to facilitate talks to save the power-sharing executive it leads with the nationalist Sinn Fein party.

Robinson's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) wants Sinn Fein, the one-time political wing of the IRA, thrown out of government after police said a rump of the militant group that formally disbanded in 2005 may have been involved in the recent killing of a former IRA member.

Sinn Fein disputes a police assessment that the IRA is still active in some form, and says a collapse of the Northern Ireland government could trigger increased violence in the British-controlled province and force London and Dublin to intervene.

"We envisage that this process should be short, focused and intensive and deal with full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement as well as the trust and confidence issues arising from the legacy of paramilitarism," Irish Prime Minister Kenny said, referring to a December agreement on social welfare reform and legacy issues such as sectarian parades and flags.

An end to violence by IRA guerrillas was a central plank of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord. The deal largely ended three decades of conflict between mostly Catholic nationalists, who favored Northern Ireland's unification with the Republic of Ireland, and Protestants wanting to stay in the United Kingdom.

Cameron, who had talks on Thursday with Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, said it was vital for the sustainability of devolved governing institutions that all issues are addressed, a statement from his office said.

The second-largest pro-British party in Northern Ireland decided to leave the power-sharing government last week over what it described as Sinn Fein's "lacking of credibility".

(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich)