McGuinness refuses to rule out resignation

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has refused to rule out resigning over the impasse threatening to bring down the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland.

If either the first or deputy first minister resigns the Stormont Executive would automatically collapse – a move that would prompt either a snap election or a period of suspension and imposition of direct rule from Westminster.

Quizzed about speculation he may step down if London claw back welfare powers from the Province, Mr McGuinness said he was on record that such a move would be unacceptable.

Speaking alongside First Minister Peter Robinson at the British-Irish Summit in Dublin, Mr McGuinness refused on two occasions to clearly dismiss speculation about a threatened resignation.

But the Sinn Fein chief said he was committed to resolving outstanding difficulties and seeing the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

The Government has said it is considering intervening to implement welfare changes over the head of the Assembly but has insisted that step remains a “last resort”.

Mr McGuinness said the Stormont House Agreement brings with it a lot of pain but stressed it is “the only way forward”.

“I’m in resolution mode. I am a problem solver,” he added. “When you consider what we have come through over the last 20 years and the historic decisions, many of which I’ve been involved in, then surely we can find a way forward in relation to the present difficulties.

“That’s where my efforts are bent.”

First Minister Mr Robinson said he adopted the same position as both the British and Irish governments – that the agreement must be implemented “in full”.

“It is my view that unless the Stormont House Agreement is implemented there is no future for the Assembly and executive,” he said.

“So it becomes an imperative as far as I’m concerned that within the next few months we can resolve the outstanding issues and move forward as we agreed last December.”

Mr Robinson, recovering from a recent heart attack, said the ongoing impasse was already hitting the public purse, education, investment and the economy.