The British and Irish governments are desperately trying to rescue the Stormont administration.
Ministers are making a determined effort after the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) withdrew on Tuesday, August 25, from the Stormont Executive.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt’s decision last week to withdraw his only minister Danny Kennedy from the Executive was unanimously endorsed by the UUP’s ruling executive on Saturday.
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 ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan in Belfast, albeit without the sanction of the IRA leadership, had “shattered” trust in Sinn Fein.
The crisis threatening Stormont will be addressed by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny when he makes a keynote address in Cambridge at a conference of the British Irish Association on Friday.
Kenny’s address was being preceded during this week by a series of high-level ministerial meetings in Dublin, London and Belfast in an attempt to avert the collapse of the Northern Executive and Assembly.
Kenny, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan met on Tuesday to discuss issues relating to security and the IRA.
There was also a meeting on Tuesday in Dublin between Britain’s Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers and Flanagan and Fitzgerald.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was under pressure to penalize Sinn Fein when he talked with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson and his deputy Nigel Dodds at Downing Street.
So far, the DUP has resisted pressure to follow the UUP out of Stormont.
Robinson, Northern Ireland’s first minister, said it was “a time for cool heads, clear thinking and a steely resolve to ensure that democracy and the rule of law triumph over terror and murder.”
Writing on Monday in the Belfast Telegraph, he said he agreed with police analysis that some IRA members were involved in the recent murder of McGuigan and that some IRA structures remain in place.
The DUP leader said “this was not the time to flee the battlefield.”
“In the coming days, we will hold fast to the fundamental principle that those who are in government in Northern Ireland cannot also be involved with those who engage in paramilitary and criminal activity,” Robinson said.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald criticized Unionists who had called for Sinn Fein’s expulsion from the Assembly.
She insisted her party believes anyone involved in criminality, including the McGuigan murder under investigation, “must be pursued, apprehended, and prosecuted.”