Theresa Villiers condemns attack on police

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Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has condemned an attack on the police in the Province. The attacks took place in Belfast when shots were fired at two police officers in a car, in what appeared to be an attempt to shoot them.

In a statement Villiers said:

“This was a shocking attack on police officers. The people behind this despicable crime will rightly attract condemnation from right across the community. I urge anyone with information to contact the police”.

Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, said:

“The attack was a futile act which could have resulted in carnage for anyone in the vicinity”.

Peter Robinson, the Northern Ireland First Minister, has stood down

Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has stood down after weeks of disagreement in the Province. The crisis started following the murder of Kevin McGuigan, who was a former member of the IRA, when the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that the IRA were implicated in his killing.

Robinson said in a statement:

“The failure of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to implement the Stormont House Agreement together with the assessment from the Chief Constable of the involvement of IRA members in murder, the continued existence of the IRA and the arrests that followed has pushed devolution to the brink”.

Downing Street said in a statement:

The Prime Minister is gravely concerned about the situation in Northern Ireland following developments there today.

“Earlier this afternoon, the Prime Minister spoke with Peter Robinson. While acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the Prime Minister told Mr Robinson that the UK Government did not believe it would be right to introduce emergency legislation now to suspend the Assembly.

They discussed options for what more the UK Government could do to comprehensively address all remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The PM underlined the need for intensive cross party talks to identify ways to tackle all paramilitary groups and to get on with implementation of the Stormont House Agreement

The Prime Minister said that there should be a return to the spirit that had seen politicians show such leadership over the years to deliver a peace process that has inspired people across the world.

The Government objective is clear: we want to work with political leaders for a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and which is no longer defined by its divided past but by its shared future”.

Arlene Foster, the current Minister for Finance in Northern Ireland, has taken on the role of acting First Minister.

Downing Street has confirmed that David Cameron has met with DUP leader Peter Robinson

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Downing Street has confirmed that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, have met for urgent talks with Peter Robinson, the First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The meeting comes after the Ulster Unionist Party withdrew from the Northern Executive last week over allegations that members of the Provisional IRA were involved with the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Downing Street issued a statement saying:

“The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland met with the leader of the DUP Peter Robinson in Downing Street this afternoon. They discussed the current challenges facing the institutions following the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the lack of progress to implement the Stormont House Agreement.

The Prime Minister recognised the gravity of the current situation and the need to rebuild trust and confidence in the political process in Northern Ireland . He reiterated his commitment to the devolved institutions and to tackling any remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister has asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to hold further urgent talks with the political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government with the aim of agreeing a way forward that builds a better future for the people of Northern Ireland”.

Jim Wells has resigned from his Northern Ireland Healthcare post

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Jim Wells, the DUP Assembly Member for Down South in Northern Ireland, has resigned as the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Province. In a statement he said:

“Those who know my family and I, know the last three months have been the toughest of our lives as we watched my wife, Grace, suffer two successive strokes and battle through major heart surgery. However, as she now faces further challenges I have come to the point where I am no longer able to continue my ministerial duties and give Grace the attention she deserves.

On the issue of comments I have made which have attracted significant publicity, I have already said sorry for the offence caused and acknowledged that the comments were factually inaccurate.  At no time did I set out to hurt or offend anyone and it has upset me greatly that the comments made have caused distress to some within our community.   I am deeply saddened that some of those who represent a different viewpoint from me have attacked my family and me in a deeply personal, nasty and in some cases threatening way. Some of the outbursts on social media have been particularly abusive and menacing in nature”.

The resignation days after controversial comments Wells made which appeared to link same-sex couples to child abuse and the police confirmed that they were investigating the comments. At this time Wells said in a statement:

“The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me personally. I had just come from a hospital visit and my focus was not on the debate. Indeed, during the event I received several messages from the hospital.

I have listened to a recording of the relevant part of the debate. I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern amongst members of the audience and beyond. I regret having wrongly made that remark about abuse and I’m sorry those words were uttered. The comment did not reflect my view nor that of my party.

Within seconds of realising this error, I asked the Chairman to let me back in and twice corrected my remarks before the debate moved on. This clarification has been confirmed by the journalists present at the event. Partial clips, spin and selective reporting regrettably miss this.

The neglect or abuse of children is awful and happens in unstable relationships whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. I make no distinction between anyone who neglects or abuses a child regardless of their sexual orientation. I trust people will accept my explanation and my apology”.

The leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson, said:

“Jim and Grace have been foremost in our prayers over the last few months.  Almost daily he has updated me on Grace’s progress.  I trust she will make a full and speedy recovery.  I have always advised Jim that we stand ready to assist him in any way we can.

I know Jim was enjoying leading change within the Department and putting in place new policies that were making our health service better.  I believe he has made a great contribution and always offered positive support at an Executive level.  I would have wanted it to be otherwise but I respect Jim’s decision.  However, he is right to put his family first and I will fully support his decision.  With such a significant portfolio, there should be an orderly transition; therefore Jim will continue in post until 11th May when the new Minister will take up office.  In the meantime, I have requested that the Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, assume some of Jim’s duties to release some of the pressure.

I place on record my thanks, and that of my party, for Jim’s service and trust everyone will accept the stress and strain Jim has encountered over these past months and offer him and his family support and encouragement as Grace battles her illness”.duplogo