Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams yesterday said his party has taken legal advice on how to fight any attempt at expulsion from the peace talks, while the Unionists are considering asking for a judicial review if Sinn Fein is allowed to remain in.
The crux of the case for both sides would be the strength of the evidence that the IRA was responsible for the murders of loyalist Bobby Dougan and drug dealer Brendan Campbell, which would constitute a breach of the Mitchell Principles which underpin the talks.
The Loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, linked to the Ulster Freedom Fighters, were kicked out of the talks after the UFF admitted killing three Catholics. Sinn Fein claims that the evidence against the Loyalists was "incontrovertible", whereas no such "incontrovertible" evidence has been presented against the IRA by RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan.
One scenario believed to be favoured by senior civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office is for a temporary suspension rather than an expulsion, with Sinn Fein being allowed to rejoin the talks after an interval of five or six weeks, as the UDP has been allowed to do.
Leading article, section 2, page 4