Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said its important every effort is made by political leaders to retain the political institutions in Northern Ireland.

He described the political situation as grave, but believes there is no purchase or benefit in "car crash politics".

Mr Flanagan said the five party leaders in the Stormont administration and the Irish and British governments must turn their attention towards the restoration of a fast disappearing trust.

He said he has arranged to meet Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers this week, along with the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Flanagan said it is "incumbent on everybody to make sure that we return to a re-commitment of the basic principles, to the institutions and indeed the gains of the Good Friday Agreement."

Yesterday, the ruling executive of the Ulster Unionist Party voted to withdraw from Northern Ireland’s powersharing government over claims the Provisional IRA still exists.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said the revelations have shattered trust in Sinn Féin and the UUP can no longer work in coalition with it.

Essential to commit ourselves to spirit of Good Friday Agreement

Asked about those claims, and PSNI suspicions that IRA members had a role in the recent murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast, Mr Flanagan said blanket denials by Sinn Féin of the existence of the IRA are most unhelpful and nobody believes them.

He also said Sinn Féin should do more to ensure that those who have evidence should hand it over to the authorities.

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has said IRA members were involved in Mr McGuigan’s murder in cooperation with a group styling itself Action Against Drugs.

He said, however, that the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism and there is no evidence the murder was sanctioned by IRA leadership.

Responding to the comments by Mr Flanagan, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said: "It appears that Charlie Flanagan is content to use the current Unionists’ threats to the institutions in the North to attack Sinn Féin.

"If Minister Flanagan wants to be helpful he should stop playing party politics with the institutions and agreements," he added.