NI: NI parties to enter urgent crisis talks

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers MP
Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers MP

Urgent talks between the five main political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly to resolve NI’s political crisis will begin today.

The talks come in the wake of a major ongoing row about the alleged continued activity of paramilitary organisations in the region, following the murder of ex-IRA member Kevin McGuigan Sr.

The row has so far seen the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) withdraw entirely from the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, while Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ministers later resigned after failing to have the assembly suspended.

DUP leader Peter Robinson, who stepped aside as First Minister earlier this month, is expected to attend the talks despite being discharged from hospital yesterday evening.

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said yesterday: “These talks are crucial for Northern Ireland. We must deal with continued activity by paramilitary organisations and bring about the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

“I recognise the scale of the task ahead. We are dealing with very difficult issues.

“But Northern Ireland’s political leaders have achieved great things over the past twenty years working together. That same spirit needs to be brought into these talks.

“We must not let this opportunity to build a brighter, more secure future for Northern Ireland slip away.”

On Friday, Ms Villiers announced an independent assessment of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland which will report back in mid-October.

She previously raised the prospect of re-establishing a body similar to the Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC).

Ms Villiers also said the UK government would establish a fund to tackle organised crime associated with paramilitary organisations.

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