Arrest of Gerry Adams raises fears for Northern Ireland peace process
Whitehall and Labour politicians worry over consequences if Sinn Féin abandons its support for power-sharing executive.
Nervous officials in the deeper recesses of Whitehall were left surreptitiously consulting the rulebooks to see what would happen if the detention of Gerry Adams prompts Sinn Féin to abandon its support for the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.
The answer is not pretty: new elections and the return of direct rule from London over Northern Ireland if Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister and the SDLP declined to support a new executive.
Figures on all sides believe a collapse of the institutions at Stormont remains a long way off. But there is no doubt the arrest of Adams – the central figure, along with McGuinness, in persuading the Provisional IRA to abandon the armed struggle – is one of the most significant and potentially dangerous moments in the 20-year-old peace process.
Shaun Woodward, Labour’s last Northern Ireland secretary, highlighted the threat when he told the Guardian: “This is a very serious and tense moment in the history of the peace process and the political process.”