‘Don’t punish Unionists for others’ sins’

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Londonderry DUP MLA Gary Middleton says Unionists must not be disenfranchised as a result of terrorist activity and warns the reintroduction of direct rule would mark a step backwards for Northern Ireland.

Mr Middleton was commenting on the recent difficulties facing the devolved institutions.

“There is no doubt that the past few weeks have been challenging times for democracy in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The murder of two republicans and the subsequent arrest of the Northern Ireland Sinn Féin chairperson Bobby Storey has raised serious questions about the IRA, Sinn Féin and their commitment to solely peaceful means,” he added.

The local DUP representative argued the devolved institutions shouldn’t be allowed to be scuttled by criminals and hawks who have never been fully committed to peace.

“Whilst these murders, like all murders are wrong those who should be punished are those who were involved in criminal activity and not those who are committed to peace. We must not forget that those who are involved in terrorist activity and the murder of our citizens and security forces never wanted Stormont to work. They cannot and should not be allowed to succeed,” he said.

“I strongly believe that Northern Ireland is best served by a devolved assembly. We all accept that Stormont has not been functioning as it should or potentially could.

“The failure of nationalist parties to deal with welfare reform and to take the tough decisions required in government would have without doubt brought us to this crisis point whether or not the murders had taken place.

“The space must now be given to so that talks can take place to bring clarity to the situation and to pave a way forward. The PSNI Chief Constable, the Secretary of state and the Prime Minister cannot all be wrong in their assessment of the PIRA. Sinn Féin need to join with the rest of us in reality. The PIRA must be dealt with once and for all. The Stormont House Agreement should be implemented as was agreed. Over recent days I have listened to many people from across the wide unionist community, some who are interested in politics and others who were not. Their response is one which I share. Unionists must not be punished as a result of terrorist activity. Direct rule will not be of benefit to the people of Northern Ireland.”