By Ray O’Hanlon
Power sharing is in peril and North Deputy First Minister Martin Guinness is looking to the United States for a lifeline.
McGuinness is expected in the U.S. in the coming days to seek support for a resolution to the crisis threatening the future of the governing Executive at Stormont, the primary political product of the peace process.
Speaking ahead of meetings with the Congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill, the State Department and the White House, Mr. McGuinness stated: "The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which have underpinned the Irish peace process for almost two decades, are facing crisis.
"This is an extremely grave situation and I would urge all those with a stake in this process to make every effort to find a resolution which secures the power-sharing administration.”
McGuinness expressed criticism of the British government, citing it for lack of imagination and drive.
"In order to redress this crisis, we require an imaginative and innovative solution which recognizes the particular challenges faced by our administration,” he said.
“That means ensuring the institutions are politically and economically viable and able to meet the needs of a society emerging from a long and bitter conflict.
"To date, that has not been forthcoming from the British government and they need to be persuaded that a new approach is required.
"It is my hope that the U.S. administration, which has been a key ally of the peace process since its inception, can help convince the British government of the gravity of the current situation which threatens to undermine the incredible progress we have made," McGuinness said.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, British Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, is also expected in the U.S. in the next few days.
Meanwhile, Mr. McGuinness has told the British government that it must recognize the unique challenges facing the North.
A Sinn Féin delegation, also including Party President Gerry Adams, Vice President Mary Lou McDonald, and former MP Michelle Gildernew, met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Westminster on Tuesday.
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Speaking afterwards, McGuinness called for a renewed effort to restore the political and economic viability of the political institutions.
"Today's engagement was useful and I believe that David Cameron can be in no doubt about the seriousness of the crisis we are facing," McGuinness said.
"The political structures created by the Good Friday Agreement are at the point of imminent collapse due to the British government's austerity agenda.
"Sinn Féin will do everything in our power to prevent a collapse from happening. Others – particularly the British government – must do the same.
Added McGuinness: "But for the institutions to survive, they need to deliver for all citizens, be they unionists, republicans or others. That requires a workable budget and a new approach and new investment from Westminster.
"The British government needs to accept the special circumstances of the North, as a society coming out of conflict, which lasted for almost thirty years.
"If we are to deliver for citizens, consolidate and build on the peace, create a peace dividend, which is tangible in deprived communities which suffered most as a result of the conflict, then the Executive needs the tools and the resources to address these deep-seated issues.
"Successive British governments invested enormous, at times limitless, resources in pursuing a military agenda. They now need to bring a similar commitment to building a still fragile peace.”