Northern Ireland’s political crisis has escalated after Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness claimed that state “agents” may have been involved in two murders that have brought the power-sharing Stormont government to the brink of collapse.
The province’s Deputy First Minister said it had not been in the interest of Sinn Fein for two former IRA members, Kevin McGuigan Sr and Jock Davidson, to be killed.
The DUP’s leader, Peter Robinson, stood down as First Minister last week over the suggestion by police that the IRA was involved in Mr McGuigan’s murder.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, is due to hold talks with Northern Ireland politicians today in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
Mr McGuinness said he believed those responsible were “criminals, agents or dissidents”.
“You need to be stupid folks not to be asking the question: whose agenda is best served by those murders?” he said.
“It certainly wasn’t our agenda, it wasn’t Sinn Fein’s agenda, it wasn’t the Sinn Fein peace strategy agenda, and in my opinion it wasn’t Peter Robinson’s agenda. This is something that has caused huge problems for us within the political institutions.”
Sinn Fein’s northern chairman, Bobby Storey, and two other well-known republicans were arrested last week over the murder of Mr McGuigan, but then released without charge.
Mr Storey insisted the IRA no longer existed.
“The IRA has gone. The IRA has stood down, they have put their arms beyond use,” he said. “They have left the stage, they are away and they’re not coming back.”
Amid the worsening political situation, a Gaelic football club near Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was badly damaged in a suspected arson attack. Police were initially not treating it as a hate crime, but Bronwyn McGahan, a Sinn Fein assembly member, said she believe it was “sectarian in nature”.