Robinson jpg

North crisis deepens as Robinson resigns

DUP leader Peter Robinson

By Irish Echo Staff

The political crisis in Northern Ireland deepened Thursday with First Minister Peter Robinson announcing that he was stepping aside from the post.

Most of his fellow DUP minister also quit while colleague and finance minister Arlene foster took over as Acting First Minister.

The resignation is the latest twist in a saga that has evolved into ever sharper relief since the murder of two men with IRA links.

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Mr. Robinson had warned that his ministers would resign if the Assembly was not adjourned, or if the British government did not suspend the power sharing institutions.

According to reports, the DUP actions will not bring an immediate collapse of the Assembly institutions.

Executive departments will still function under the temporary arrangements, but the Executive will not meet.

The DUP wanted all Assembly business suspended to allow crisis talks to take place over the political consequences of the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Mr. Robinson's announcement came after the SDLP, Sinn Féin, and the Ulster Unionists – who had recently withdrawn their sole minister from the Executive - voted against a DUP proposal to adjourn the Assembly.

"In light of the decision by republicans, nationalists and the UUP to continue with business as usual in the Assembly, I am therefore standing aside as First Minister and other DUP ministers will resign with immediate effect with the exception of Arlene Foster,” said Mr. Robinson.

"I have asked Arlene to remain in post as Finance Minister and acting First Minister to ensure that nationalists and republicans are not able to take financial and other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland," he said.

Speaking in Belfast today at the Northern Ireland talks at Stormont House, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan said: "I greatly regret the decision of the DUP to resign the majority of their ministerial seats and that of Peter Robinson to step aside as First Minister.

"What we want is for the devolved power-sharing Executive and Assembly to work as envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement and deliver peace, prosperity and reconciliation for the people of Northern Ireland.

"The Irish government is absolutely committed to the full and effective operation of the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Following today's serious developments, the power-sharing institutions are on the edge of the precipice. I urge Northern Ireland's political leaders to take a step back and consider the gains achieved over recent years, the benefits to the people of Northern Ireland and what is now at stake.

"I encourage all parties to reflect carefully. The Secretary of State and I will be here in Stormont House on Monday morning and I invite the parties to join us for discussions on how we find a way through the current serious impasse. We will of course remain available to the parties over the weekend."

SDLP Leader, Dr. Alasdair McDonnell, in a statement, outlined why the SDLP voted against the DUP proposal to adjourn the Assembly in favor of maintaining functioning institutions.

Said Dr. McDonnell: “Unlike others who rushed to judgement, we have been steady and spoken to everyone, including the Irish government, this morning about the current situation. Our decision has been to oppose the adjournment of the Assembly. It offers no real solution.

“In our meeting with the Taoiseach we offered a number of constructive proposals including the introduction of a representative of the American government as a new independent chair, allowing space for a comprehensive resolution involving everyone.

“This crisis has been created by the failings of Sinn Féin and the DUP. Together they have damaged confidence, the institutions, good government and the fundamental values of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The SDLP are not in the business of giving cover for or working to DUP or Sinn Fein agendas.

“We are in the business of defending and delivering upon the promise of the Good Friday Agreement and ensuring that these institutions work for the good of our people.

“We will continue to stand up for these institutions. It is disgraceful that others would seek to jeopardize them. But that is their decision and they must be held responsible for it.

“We will not cross the wires of politics and policing as the DUP have done upon recent arrests. We feel the Assembly can and should do business while the talks take place and should not be put at risk by political brinkmanship. You cannot stabilize the institutions by bringing them down.

“All too often we in Stormont are accused of living in a bubble. People are sick of the Assembly lurching from one crisis to the other. They should be. We are.

“We need to be responsible and we will be. An adjournment will not resolve this problem.”