Assembly's future remains in doubt

by Democrat reporter

THE FUTURE of the Stormont ssembly remains uncertain after Ian Paisley rejected a nomination by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to become the first minister of 'Northern Ireland'.

The offer was made during a session at the Stormont assembly on 22 May, but the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) leader responded with a brief "certainly not".

The 108 members of the northern assembly had gathered for their first vote on a new government for the six counties, just a week after taking their seats for the first time since proceedings were suspended in October 2002 over allegations of an IRA spy ring.

Paisley's refusal was widely expected as he continues to refuse to share power with Sinn Fein. He has insisted the party is still not committed to the peace process and has refused to accept reassurances, even from the independent commission on decommissioning, that the IRA has given up their armed struggle for good.

Adams had also nominated Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, to be elected as deputy first minister.

The Sinn Fein president said his party would return to getting the nominations passed "at the earliest possible time".

"Understandably there is a lot of scepticism about whether Ian Paisley will ever lead his DUP into the executive with the rest of us.

"I think everyone who is committed to the Good Friday agreement should suspend our scepticism and make a good faith effort to get the executive up and running.

"If Ian Paisley does not play his part then its over to the [British and Irish] governments to get rid of the assembly and to proceed with all other aspects of the agreement."

Members of the Northern Ireland assembly have been given until November to choose a government, after which their allowances and salaries will be stopped and direct rule imposed on the six-counties for the foreseeable future.

The DUP wants the assembly to be simply a debating chamber, leaving decision-making power with northern secretary Peter Hain.

Meanwhile, Progressive Unionist Party Assembly member, David Ervine, formally aligned himself with the UUP Stormont team during the first day of the reconvened assembly.

The inclusion of UVF-linked PUP, effectively gives the UUP-PUP assembly group an extra ministerial seat at the expense of Sinn Fein.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2006-07-04 15:59:20.
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