The party announced their intention to resign from Northern Ireland’s mandatory coalition bringing the future of the administration into serious doubt.
The Ulster Unionists have announced their intent to resign from Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive and form an opposition over claims the Provisional IRA still exists.
While the move by the UUP, a minor partner in the five-party mandatory coalition, will not automatically trigger the collapse of the administration it does throw its future into serious doubt, as pressure will now mount on the region’s largest party, the Democratic Unionists, to follow suit.
Northern Ireland’s delicate power-sharing agreement has been thrown into doubt as the Ulster Unionists Party’s (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt has announced the intention to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive following claims the Provisional IRA still exists.
He said the party intended “form an opposition and offer people an alternative, as is the way in any proper democracy.”
He went on: “We are in a bad place but this can be fixed…but the IRA need to go away and stop terrorising their own communities.”
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the IRA has gone away. Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is accusing the UUP of playing party politics.
This decision by the UUP is more about inter Unionist rivalry than their & others feigned concern about our unequivocal commitment to #Peace
— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) August 26, 2015
The move comes in the wake of an assessment by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that claims some strands of the presumed defunct paramilitary organisation are still operating, and some of its members were involved in the murder of Belfast father-of-nine Kevin McGuigan two weeks ago.
In 2008 the PSNI said the IRA had disbanded but at the weekend PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said parts of its structure were still in place, but for a radically different purpose from the 1990s. It said the ground was no longer engaged in terrorism, instead pursuing peaceful, political republicanism.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the UUP took its own decisions, but “the government remains fully committed to the devolved political institutions and to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.”
The Stormant House Agreement is intended to broach some of the most difficult issues left-over from Northern Ireland’s difficult recent past. It has been stalled by a political fallout between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Ms Villiers said that she would be continuing discussions with parties about the impact of the murder of Mr McGuigan.
The UUP’s executive is to meet on Saturday to endorse the party leadership’s decision.