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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain May Suspend Belfast Government in Spy Scandal

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Northern Ireland's cross-community administration faced probable suspension by Britain next week after moderate Catholic politicians said Wednesday they wouldn't punish Sinn Fein over alleged IRA spying.

Suspending the administration's powers and putting Britain back in sole control would be intended to buy time for tempers to cool and for the parties to negotiate a new understanding.

Gerry Adams, leader of the Irish Republican Army-linked party, insisted there was no reason to take power away from local hands. But he conceded that this week's espionage-related charges against three people, including Sinn Fein's top legislative aide, meant "the damage has been done," even if the trio are eventually acquitted.

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, gathered at Blair's office in London to agree on a strategy for preventing the collapse of the Northern Ireland administration.

Close Blair-Ahern cooperation helped achieve the 1998 peace accord that inspired Northern Ireland's nearly three-year-old government of British Protestants and Irish Catholics.

"We don't want to see suspension. But if there is not trust between the parties, then they can't work," Ahern said as he and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen arrived outside Blair's office.

"If that trust is temporarily gone, it is the obligation of the two governments to manage the situation in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland," Ahern said.