DUP MP Gregory Campbell says the UUP have put the cart before the horse by deciding to leave the Executive based on their ignorance rather than knowledge of the circumstances regarding the IRA’s involvement or otherwise in the Kevin McGuigan murder.
Mr Campbell also said the Executive would practically cease functioning in October anyway as a result of the non-resolution of the welfare impasse and accused the UUP of trying to force a crisis for party advantage.
“The recent murder in Belfast and the subsequent declaration by the Chief Constable that IRA personnel were involved has made a difficult political situation fraught with even more difficulty,” said Mr Campbell.
“The case against those responsible needs to proceed and Sinn Féin who refuse to concede that the Chief Constable’s assertion is correct need to be put under continual pressure not just to admit the existence of IRA structures but to agreeing ways of dismantling them,” he added.
“The UUP’s announcement that they intend to pull out of the Executive needs to be scrutinised as to what it really means for unionism.
The first context that the decision needs to be measured against is that the Assembly has not been able to solve the Welfare Reform issue, due primarily to Sinn Féin and the SDLP. This long running saga has meant that in October, (only a few weeks away) the Assembly, due to budgetary and financial penalties etc. was going to practically cease functioning in any case. This information has been known to the entire community, and discussed very widely, for some time,” said Mr Campbell.
“Secondly, when Mike Nesbitt announced their decision to leave last Wednesday, he added a strange call for ‘clarity’. Calling for clarity after having taken this decision seems odd.
“Most people would act after getting clarity not before. The matter was compounded when former leader Tom Elliott MP reinforced this on Thursday when in an interview he declared “We have taken a decision based on the information, or mostly the lack of information that we had received from both the Chief Constable and particularly the Secretary of State in that there is no clarity around the position of the IRA,” he said.
“So both the Leader and former Leader are not just looking for ‘clarity’ but according to Mr. Elliott they are actually basing their decision to walk out, on the ‘lack of information.’
“Responsible political parties that are faced with exceptional circumstances not of their own making, hold discussions and seek information from those who might be able to provide it, they seek ‘clarity’ and information, then they act. If they don’t do this, and the UUP haven’t, then they have a serious piece of explaining to do as to why they took the action first,” he said.
Mr Campbell also pointed out that a formal opposition is prohibited under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, although legislative steps have been taken to amend this.
“Mike Nesbitt also said they wanted to become an opposition at Stormont. The establishment of an opposition is a good thing, we want that and would welcome it as further progress. The additional problem the UUP has is that they can’t form an opposition because the UUP themselves with the SDLP agreed in the 1998 Agreement that there couldn’t be one!
“The UUP decision to try and force a crisis was unnecessary as within weeks the Assembly would not have been able to function anyway. People will ask why take their decision now? Was it to try and gain some party advantage irrespective of the wider implications? It is SF that we must continue to bring pressure on. Not snap decisions that defy logic by the UUP,” he said.