Robinson warning over talks

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Political snipers are trying to wreck the prospect of a power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland, the First Minister has warned.

In an apparent swipe at his unionist rivals, Peter Robinson also said there are just 10 days to save the crisis-hit Stormont institutions.

He said: “There are people quite clearly who think they will have some advantage if the process breaks down.

“To use a recently quoted phrase, ‘they are on the wrong side of history if they think it is advantageous to bring this process down’.”

The Assembly has been teetering on the verge of collapse since the murder of a man by IRA members in August.

Kevin McGuigan, 53, was shot dead in front of his wife in the staunchly republican Short Strand area of east Belfast in what police believe was a reprisal for the murder of a one-time associate and former IRA commander, Gerard “Jock” Davison, 47, three months earlier.

A police assessment that individual members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the shooting has piled pressure on Sinn Fein to explain how the supposedly defunct organisation still exists and prompted unionists to pull out all ministers but one from the power-sharing Executive.

Sinn Fein has rejected the accusations and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has challenged political rivals making claims about the party’s links to criminality to “put up or shut up”.

On Wednesday Mr McGuinness said there were only days left to clinch a power-sharing deal.

Echoing those remarks, Mr Robinson set a 10-day deadline for the “end game”.

The DUP leader said: “My judgment is that if we do not get agreement within the next 10 days there will be no agreement. We are coming to the vital stage, the end game. It is my view that if we cannot reach agreement that the process itself will be terminated.

“There are those who are sitting on the sidelines - they are the whingers, the political snipers who look for failure, who hope for failure so they might personally or from a party point of view benefit.

“It will not benefit anybody if in aggrandising themselves they destroy our process.”

The cross-party talks convened by the British and Irish governments have been focusing on finances, welfare reform, the legacy of the past and paramilitarism.

A series of bilateral meetings have also taken place in recent days.

Although there are problems in each of the four categories, Mr Robinson said, none were insurmountable.

He added: “The process of peacemaking is never straightforward or smooth. If we are looking for a perfect peace we are going to have to wait until we cross the Jordan and hear celestial choirs.

“We are not going to get it down here.

“Peace can be very messy. It can be dangerous territory for those who are attempting to get stability and peace and the political graveyard is full of those who have tried and failed.

“We, for our part, believe that there is a responsibility on us to bend every effort to try and resolve outstanding issues.”