NI ministers will 'renominate and resign' to keep roles from Sinn Fein


Democratic Unionist ministers who quit Northern Ireland's powersharing government are set to be renominated next week only to resign again immediately in a move designed to keep the posts away from nationalists and republicans, party leader Peter Robinson has said.

Under the rules of Stormont's mandatory coalition Executive, if a minister is not renominated within seven days the position is reallocated to another party.

Mr Robinson said he aimed to ensure the administration was not able to function properly until a major crisis over a murder linked to the IRA is resolved.

The DUP leader, who himself stood aside as first minister yesterday, outlined the potential political choreography as the Prime Minister urged Northern Ireland's politicians to "go the extra mile" to save the institutions.

David Cameron said the Government stood ready to do what it could to resolve the meltdown sparked by last month's murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Intensive political talks involving the Northern Ireland parties and the British and Irish governments are due to start on Monday in a bid to rescue powersharing.

Mr Robinson and three of his four DUP ministerial colleagues walked out of the Executive in Belfast yesterday, leaving a husk of an administration limping on.

DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster has been left in the Executive to act as what her party is describing as a "gatekeeper" to prevent controversial government decisions by the remaining nationalist and republican ministers. As well as her current portfolio, she has assumed the post of acting First Minister.

Asked if he would renominate ministers next week, Mr Robinson said: "And we'll do exactly the same thing again (after renomination), we'll resign until such times as the matters are resolved."

Mr Robinson told UTV: "What we have made clear is the objective - and let's not get tied up in processes - the objective in all of this was to ensure that we would not be doing business as usual, so we will not be doing business as usual.

"But, at the same time, we are not going to be handing seats over the Sinn Fein and the SDLP, why should the Sinn Fein organisation be rewarded for bad behaviour, they should be punished for bad behaviour, not given extra seats."

Mr Cameron described the crisis as an "extremely worrying situation".

Speaking in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: "We stand ready to help, including standing ready to help with getting rid of the paramilitary organisations and properly examining how they still exist, what they consist of and putting them out of commission in our country.

"I would appeal to the politicians to go the extra mile, the extra ten miles if they have to, to make these institutions work for people in Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness today said politicians had "six weeks" to save the Executive.

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party - which is not a member of the Executive, said the DUP plan plumbed "new lows of pantomime farce".

"All of the shenanigans in Stormont to date will pale into insignificance and it will be held in even greater contempt than it currently is - which is quite an achievement," he said.