Britain and Ireland will try to resume crisis talks with Northern Ireland’s Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist parties on Monday in a bid to save a power-sharing government that ended decades of sectarian violence.
The British province’s devolved administration is on the brink of collapse after a murder linked to former members of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA) prompted its first minister, Peter Robinson, to step aside.
Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the main pro-British party, has yet to commit to the negotiations until it is satisfied they will deal with paramilitary activities linked to Sinn Fein, their nationalist partner in government, who were formerly the political wing of the IRA.
“We are very much committed to talks but we will await and see what our (the British) government brings forward and we’ll make our decision then,” Acting First Minister Arlene Foster, the only DUP minister who did not step down last week, told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Sunday.
Sinn Fein has said the IRA no longer exists, dismissing a police assessment that current and former members are still involved in criminal activity, and it has said the party would not let the issue be a precondition of talks.
London’s Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, has said the IRA exists and that re-establishing an independent authority to look at the issue of disbanding paramilitary organisations was “one of the most credible ideas.”
Ireland’s foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, said on Sunday that some form of independent monitoring is needed and that it was “not simply good enough for politicians to say we’re clean.”