Peter Robinson: Unionists know only the DUP can get us out of this impasse

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Last weekend I wrote an article for the News Letter in which I said “the only way that we will achieve the outcome that we want is through a talks process. That is what we called for some time ago. While the Government has made many of the right noises in relation to dealing with paramilitary activity, we need to have a tangible demonstration that they regard this issue seriously.”

At the start of the week, I indicated that the DUP would continue to be in contact with the Government to press them to ensure that the conditions exist to allow us to participate in this process.

The announcement from the Secretary of State yesterday comes about as a direct result of our concerns.

Both the Government and the other political parties know that without the DUP there is no basis for a successful political outcome.

As we get down to the business of finding a resolution on Monday, we do so on the basis that the scourge of paramilitarism must be tackled once and for all and there must be the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement including the need to agree welfare reform.

The announcement from the Secretary of State is a welcome first step in demonstrating that our concerns are being taken on board.

Unionists want to see stable government and decisions being taken that are in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

They also know that it is only the DUP that has the breadth and depth to chart a steady course over the next number of weeks.

Unlike others who are flip-flopping through inexperience and the lack of a significant negotiating team we know what needs to be achieved and how best to secure our objectives.

Following the Chief Constable’s assessment of those involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, the DUP said that it would not be business as usual.

We insisted to the Government that there were two issues that needed to be addressed if devolution was to continue.

Those issues were the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and dealing with all paramilitary structures. We said we would not engage in knee jerk reactions but rather would deal with the outstanding issues in a strategic manner.

The Secretary of State’s statement is a product of our determination to get a solid basis upon which to proceed with talks. We recognise the Secretary of State is now taking action to address the two concerns we had raised. We have consistently argued that ultimately the business of determining the long-term steps to address paramilitary links must be addressed and resolved through the talks.

On the basis of the Secretary of State’s statement, we will be participating in the Talks on Monday.

I am not in the business of wrecking our local Assembly. I want to see good, effective government in Northern Ireland.

Whilst others may be focused on process this party is focused on getting the right outcome.

Our objective for the talks is to see the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and a mechanism to put those engaged in terrorism and criminality out of business once and for all.

• Peter Robinson is leader of the DUP and was First Minister until standing aside last week