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McGuinness, Villiers in U.S. as North crisis simmers

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North Secretary Theresa Villiers.

By Anthony Neeson
asneeson@irishecho.com

It looks like it will be a case of he said, she said.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness is in the United States this week to seek support for a resolution to the crisis threatening the political institutions in Northern Ireland.

The Deputy First Minister arrived on Tuesday for meetings with the congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill, the State Department and other senior administration officials.

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Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers is also in the U.S. and in a series of meetings is expected to counter the message being disseminated by McGuinness.

Speaking ahead of his talks, Mr. McGuinness said the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which have underpinned the 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,” he said.

"In order to redress this crisis, we require an imaginative and innovative solution, which recognizes the particular challenges faced by our administration. 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 since the inception of the peace process, can help convince the British government of the gravity of the current situation and to end their current approach which threatens to undermine the incredible progress we have made."

Villiers, by contrast, will be insisting American pressure should be directed at Sinn Féin to accept reduced budget cuts.

And Stormont Finance Minister, Arlene Foster, has also criticized Sinn Féin warning that there would be “a real crisis” in the political process if the party doesn’t concede on welfare cutbacks.

The DUP minister said McGuinness was “wasting his time” on his U.S. mission.

Foster said her message to McGuinness was: “sort it out and get on with governing Northern Ireland in a responsible fashion.”

The Irish Times, meanwhile, summed the situation up with the headline: “Villiers and McGuinness in US PR battle over political deadlock.”