Ulster Unionist Party to quit Northern Ireland Executive

26 Aug 15

The Ulster Unionist Party has announced that it intends to pull out of Northern Ireland’s power sharing Executive after a police investigation found that the “organisational infrastructure” of the Provisional IRA still exists.

Party leader Mike Nesbitt said today he had recommended to a meeting of the UUP’s Northern Ireland assembly members, as well as MPs and councillors, that the party withdraw.

The Northern Ireland Executive is a power-sharing government drawing ministers from the five biggest parties.

Nesbitt’s announcement comes after a Police Service of Northern Ireland report claimed members of the Provisional IRA were allegedly involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan earlier this month.

PSNI concluded the infrastructure of the PIRA continued to exist, but has undergone significant change since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, with some elements having been dissolved completely since 2005.

Nesbitt said the UUP remained committed to the Good Friday Agreement but this was founded on the need for trust. 

“Seventeen years on, we are told the IRA still exists, and that it has a command structure, at a senior level,” he said.

“We are also told members of the IRA have committed a murder on the streets of our capital city.”

He added that the party, which has one of the Executive’s 13 ministers, also needed to “stretch itself again” in opposition.

“The next step is to call a meeting of our own executive, to ask them to endorse our collective decision. That decision is to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive, to form an opposition and offer people an alternative, as is the way in any proper democracy.”

In response, Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said it was for the UUP to make its own decisions.

“The government remains fully committed to the devolved political institutions and to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement,” she stated.

“Over the coming days, I shall be continuing my discussions with the parties about fallout from the murder of Kevin McGuigan.”

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party that leads the Executive, called for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.

He said the PSNI report raised “very profound questions” about Sinn Féin’s fitness to govern.

“We will not ignore the reality that members of the IRA, according to the chief constable, were involved in murder.”

He said the party would meet Villiers on Thursday to set out concerns about the power-sharing arrangements.

“Our message is clear: the duty of every responsible politician is to ensure that those who are in breach of their commitments to exclusively democratic and peaceful methods are the ones who are punished,” Dodds said.

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly said the decision by the UUP to pull out of the Executive was opportunistic.

“There has been speculation for quite some time that the UUP would pull out of the Executive and go into opposition,” he added.

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