Crisis has loomed over the North’s power-sharing administration after Sinn Fein withdrew its support for welfare reform.
First Minister Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party has dramatically pulled out of a St. Patrick’s Day visit to Washington to meet President Obama in the wake of the latest Stormont crisis.
Robinson was due in New York on Tuesday with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein for planned investment meetings. Both were due back in Belfast on Thursday of this week. But The Belfast Telegraph reported that Robinson now has no appetite for the planned trip to the White House alongside McGuinness next week.
A senior Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) source said, “Mr. Robinson can see no point in going ahead with the Washington visit in the absence of agreement.”
The odds of a snap Assembly election in the North are also growing, as the unforeseen dispute threatens to bring the Stormont government down.
Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph, Robinson said Sinn Fein is “risking it all,” leaving the public wondering why.
He said the collapse of the deal on welfare reform will unravel other aspects that flowed from the Stormont House Agreement.
McGuinness said on RTE, before flying to New York, that figures provided by the Department of Social Development showed that apart from the £125 million sterling that has been promised in the deal, a further £200 million was needed “to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”
McGuinness accused the DUP of reneging on commitments. Robinson said that was “dishonorable and ham-fisted.” He stressed that the DUP would implement every word and number that had been agreed.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said he found the development “deeply concerning.”.
In Dublin, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said he hoped the parties can work out the issues that separate them.
He asked in the Dail (Parliament) on Tuesday why, when an agreement had been signed off, Sinn Fein had now decided to withdraw its support.