Events at the Stormont assembly yesterday looked bleak, but at least a return to the large-scale violence of the past is unlikelyby David McKittrick / September 11, 2015 / Leave a comment
A complete walkout of unionist members of the Northern Ireland Assembly was averted following a day of tense negotiations yesterday, though a partial withdrawal means that the future of the power sharing arrangement remains precarious.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Democratic Unionist party leader Peter Robinson, did not follow through with his threat to lead all his ministers out of the Assembly. Instead he announced he was standing aside—though not resigning—from his post.
He has also told three of his ministers to resign. This will leave the Assembly in being, since David Cameron turned down a Robinson request for a formal suspension, but its ruling executive will not be meeting and several departments will be left without ministers.
Weeks of talks to resolve deep differences between the DUP and Sinn Fein over IRA activity will now take place, but tensions continue to run high and David Cameron last night admitted he was “gravely concerned” about the situation. The prevailing atmosphere is one of pessimism.
His Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, described it as “a bad day for the Northern Ireland political process,” warning: “It is a sign of a complete breakdown in the working relationships within the executive. Power sharing only works effectively if you can have effective relationships between parties.”
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