THE resignation of Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has been met with backlash from his Stormont colleagues.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Robinson stepped aside yesterday evening, claiming he could not continue in government until the decision was made to suspend the Northern Ireland Executive.
But Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt accused Robinson of “hokey cokey” politics in stepping down from his office.
“Peter Robinson clearly cannot make a decision as to whether he wants be in or out of the Executive,” he said.
“On Wednesday he said the DUP Ministers would leave the Executive en masse, yet only 24 hours later his position has shifted to only some of his Ministers resigning.”
Robinson, though officially stepping down from the position of First Minister, stressed that he is not leaving the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) indefinitely.
Appointing party colleague Arlene Foster to act as interim First Minister, Robinson said he has not “technically resigned”.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams strongly criticised the move this morning, reiterating his party’s belief that the NIE should not be suspended.
He condemned the “stupid, irresponsible remarks” from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin calling for a suspension of the NIE, while labelling the current situation a “contrived crisis”.
He was speaking on the back of the release of Sinn Féin's northern chairman Bobby Storey, who was arrested in connection with the murder of Kevin McGuigan – the incident that kick-started the turmoil in the North.
But he said his party was willing to do whatever needs to be done to get the power-sharing executive back on track.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Is it worth saving the Executive and the institutions? My belief is that it is.”
“The time is limited here to get this show back on the road.
“If they [the institutions] were to collapse, it could be a very long time where you get back to a situation where you get a normal running Assembly.”
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “gravely concerned” about the situation in the North yesterday.
The collapse of the NIE comes after PSNI comments indicated that the Provisional IRA had a hand in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
A statement followed, denying that there was any evidence to support this claim but acknowledging the belief that the PIRA is still in existence – which caused widespread chaos among the North’s political parties.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan remains in Belfast as Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers convenes crunch talks to reach a deal.
They now have a seven-day window in which to strike a deal – and Robinson must nominate his new ministers in this time or a Stormont election will be triggered.