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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
DUP ministers resign from executive
The two Democratic Unionist Party ministers have resigned from the Northern Ireland Executive ahead of the likely suspension of the power-sharing government.

Regional Development Minister Peter Robinson and Social Development Minister Nigel Dodds resigned over allegations of IRA spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

At a news conference following the resignations, party leader Ian Paisley said it was for the good of Northern Ireland.

Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader, said it was "time to draw a line under the failed process" and give politicians a "fresh mandate" through elections.

DUP minister Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson: Resigned from the executive

"We want to live in a democracy, which includes an electoral process and people taking democratic decisions, but in a form which does not have at its heart those who are in inextricably linked to violence," he said.

Mr Dodds said events had proved that the DUP had "won the argument" within unionism in the end.

Earlier on Friday, Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble held talks with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in Dublin to discuss the crisis in the province's political process.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Trimble said that suspension was "very much a second best option".

Nigel Dodds said DUP policies had been proven correct
Nigel Dodds said DUP policies had been proven correct

He said that it "punished the innocent as well as the guilty".

Government sources told the BBC on Thursday the Stormont Assembly would be suspended for the fourth time next Monday.

Mr Trimble added that he wanted the government to make "tackling the underlying problems" in the political process the first priority, rather than focussing on the mechanics of the situation.

"Or we stagger from crisis to crisis, as we have over the last four years, and we can't keep doing that."

Last week, the Ulster Unionist leader said his party would pull out of power sharing next week unless the UK Government proposed the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the Stormont administration.

It is understood two extra ministers will be appointed to the Northern Ireland Office to take over the work of the executive, once direct rule from Westminster is re-introduced.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the impending suspension was "highly frustrating" for his party, which he described as the "backbone" of the Agreement.

"We want it (the institutions) put back together as soon as we can possibly do it," he said.

"I don't see why we should have to wait to the new year to bring back the institutions".

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness told a republican rally on Thursday that unionists were frightened of peace.

Mr McGuinness urged republicans to stick with the peace process.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Has been holding meetings over crisis

"Keep your eyes fixed on the prize," he said.

"We are moving forward to bring about political change in this country and Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern and everybody else will have to recognise that."

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister and SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he was not concerned so much about the manner in which the assembly might be suspended, but what was done during the suspension.

Friday's meeting in Dublin between Mr Trimble and Mr Ahern is one of a series involving the British and Irish governments and the political parties in recent days.

On Thursday, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said suspension of the executive would be a mistake after meeting Tony Blair in Downing Street.

Mr Adams said it would characterise the political institutions as being "optional extras".

He also acknowledged that disbandment of IRA was a "laudable and necessary objective of this process".

Meanwhile, Mr Blair said the process had overcome crises before and would again, as it was the only way forward.

"We have to find the way of unblocking this political impasse because otherwise, it's the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer," he said. "There is no alternative to this."

And he warned that republicans could no longer operate a "dual strategy".

Denis Murray reports from Belfast
"The DUP believe Sinn Fein are are not fit for executive office because of IRA actions"
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson
"I hope the prime minister does not take the decision to suspend democracy"
Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble
"The Republican movement has behaved very badly"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
10 Oct 02 | N Ireland
09 Oct 02 | N Ireland
07 Oct 02 | N Ireland
09 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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