Northern Ireland Executive's future in doubt

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Indy Politics

If the Northern Ireland Executive fails to meet next month there will be serious consequences for the future governance of the region, First Minister Peter Robinson warned today.

The Democratic Unionist leader claimed Sinn Fein were breaking their legal obligations by refusing to let the power-sharing government's cabinet convene.



The Executive has not met since June amid a growing stalemate between the two main parties over a range of issues, the most pressing being the devolution of policing powers from Westminster.



The next scheduled meeting is on 18 September, but there has yet been no signal from republican leadership whether they intend to let that proceed.



Mr Robinson's remarks comes after a leading Sinn Fein figure warned that his party would collapse the Executive if the DUP did not agree to a timetable for devolution.



The East Belfast MP said he was not bound to any devolution date and will only agree to the move when there is significant community confidence and proof the IRA Army council has been disbanded.



A report from the Independent Monitoring Commission on the status of the army council is due to the handed to the British and Irish governments next week.



"When Ministers were appointed they made public and legally-binding pledges which are not being fulfilled," said Mr Robinson.



"This cannot continue. A meeting of the Executive has been scheduled for 18 September.



"If this meeting were not to take place it is self-evident that there would be serious consequences for the good government of Northern Ireland and indeed potentially for those who refuse to fulfil their legal obligations."







At the weekend Sinn Fein TD in the Irish Republic Caoimhghin O Caolain warned his party would pull its ministers out of the Stormont Executive if policing and justice were not devolved.

"If we are forced to conclude that change will not be forthcoming from the Executive then we will have no option but to pull out our ministers and seek to put pressure where responsibility ultimately lies, which is on the British government in London," said Mr O Caolain.



Sinn Fein claim the DUP signed up to transfer policing responsibilities in May as part of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.



Following that deal, republicans made the historic step to support the police in Northern Ireland for the first time.



"When Sinn Fein changed our policy on policing in the north, accepting that a new beginning was being made, it was with the prospect that policing and justice powers would be transferred by May of this year," said Mr O Caolain.



"It is now the end of August and we do not even have a date for transfer. This is totally unacceptable."



However, Mr Robinson said his party had not signed up to any date and claimed the St Andrews Agreement was only a deal between the British and Irish governments.



He added that his party would not bow to any threats from Sinn Fein.



"Let me make it clear the DUP will not respond to threats such as that which Sinn Fein has made," he said.



"If we were to do so on this issue we would be vulnerable to having the republican threat of bringing the institutions down used again and again in order that we would comply with other Sinn Fein demands.



"Nor indeed will we make political concessions in order to encourage any party to do that which it pledged to do and carry out duties which it is legally required to perform."



The East Belfast MP added: "Let me deal with the inaccurate propaganda which is being disseminated by republicans about policing and justice. The St Andrews Agreement between the Government and the government of the Republic of Ireland neither bound nor required the DUP to accept the devolution of policing and justice, nor did it impose any timetable for such devolution."



The two partners in the power-sharing institutions are also at loggerheads over the future of the region's education system, controversial plans for a multi-sports stadium at the site of the former Maze prison and nationalist demands for an Irish Language act.



Mr Robinson said other issues such as the fall out from the recent floods and the ongoing economic downturn could not be addressed fully until the Executive met.



"For some time I have sought to have the Executive called together to deal with important outstanding business," he said.



"I have cleared Executive papers in order for business to be presented to Ministers - indeed I have approved sufficient work for several Executive meetings.



"Therefore, let it not be said that it is the DUP who is blocking Executive business."

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