Irish Republican News · September 10, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Robinson steps aside, puts ‘gatekeeper’ in zombie Executive


In a dramatic day in Belfast, DUP leader Peter Robinson has backed away from a threat to immediately collapse the Six County Executive, instead opting to step aside temporarily and withdraw all his Ministers, leaving one.

The sole DUP Minister in the apparently doomed Executive will now be his substitute, Arlene Foster, acting as both First Minister and Finance Minister.

The DUP move will not bring about an immediate collapse of the northern institutions. Executive departments will still function under the temporary arrangements, but the Executive will not meet.

Robinson had urged the British government to immediately suspend the institutions after a Stormont committee refused to adjourn (recess) the Assembly. However, the British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers has so far refused to take that step.

With the exception of Mrs Foster, the DUP’s ministers have all signed their letters of resignation. It is understood that the resignations will take at least seven days to come into effect.

According to Robinson, he has “stepped aside but not technically resigned”. He said Foster will remain as a ‘gatekeeper’ in the executive until the resignation process is completed -- ostensibly to prevent nationalists from accessing Stormont funds.

“Arlene remaining in post allows us to ensure that no irrational financial decisions are taken by other parties in what might appear to be the last number of days of this assembly,” he said.

Robinson’s motivation for sustaining the Executive, even in the short term, remains unclear. He could have acted to immediately collapse the institutions by tendering his own resignation, but unexpectedly declined to do so.

At a press conference this evening, he said he still backed devolution, but it had been pushed “to the “brink”.

“Local ministers making local decisions is best for Northern Ireland,” the DUP leader said.

“The failure of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to implement the Stormont House Agreement, together with the assessment from the Chief Constable of the involvement of IRA members in murder, the continued existence of the IRA, and the arrests that followed, has pushed devolution to the brink.”

Villiers later confirmed that she would not take the decision to move towards suspension and called for all parties to work together.

She said it had been a “bad day”, but “there has been a number of such bad days”.

One hopeful sign for the Stormont administration was the release from PSNI custody this evening of Sinn Fein’s northern chairman, Bobby Storey, whose arrest helped to fuel the latest cycle in the crisis.

Mr Storey had been arrested in connection with the death last month of east Belfast man Kevin McGuigan. Two other senior republicans arrested with Storey, as well as a 50-year-old woman arrested this morning, still remain in custody.

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