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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 November, 2003, 14:19 GMT
Assembly election 'may be re-run'
Dr Brian Feeney: "Don't rule out another election next June"
The UK and Irish governments may re-run the Northern Ireland Assembly elections to see if they can get a "better result", two analysts have said.

Dr Brian Feeney of Queen's University in Belfast said the governments had already postponed the election because "they knew" the DUP would dominate.

His colleague Dr Rick Wilford said he believed a re-run could happen before next summer.

Neither believed Ian Paisley would budge on talking to Sinn Fein.

'Old testament'

Dr Wilford, a politics lecturer at the university, told BBC News 24 the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy had a "real problem on his hands".

This is a case of irresistible force meeting immovable object
Dr Rick Wilford

In Wednesday's elections the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which opposes the Good Friday Agreement, overtook the Ulster Unionists to become the biggest party.

The assembly was suspended more than a year ago.

The DUP refuses to share power with Sinn Fein, which also made gains.

Dr Wilford said the election result meant "old testament unionist politics had replaced new testament unionist politics".

This would make the job of restoring power-sharing more difficult for the UK minister, he said.

Dr Feeney said in the coming days there would be a cooling off period while people digested the result.

"There will be a review [of the Good Friday Agreement] but we are in for a period of direct rule," he said.

He said another election was possible, because the government had already "bent the law to keep the agreement up and running".

'Pigs would fly'

"Don't rule out another election next June, around the time of the European election.

Dr Rick Wilford
Dr Rick Wilford said the peace process was not in danger
"It would be a re-run of this one to see if they can get a better result," he said.

Dr Wilford said a determining factor would be the outcome of a review of the Good Friday Agreement, which the DUP has called "dead in the water".

He said: "If there are a lot of proposed changes to the architecture of the institutions here then I think there's an argument for going back to the electorate."

The lecturer said "pigs would fly" before Ian Paisley did a deal with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

"This is a case of irresistible force meeting immovable object," he said.

"I don't think there's any prospect of a deal being done there."

But Dr Feeney said while Mr Paisley was unlikely to budge, there had been "careful statements" from senior deputies in the DUP that "tested the water" for talks.

International treaty

"They are not denying that they may get into some kind of talks... through a third party perhaps."

He said there was an important distinction to make between the political process and the peace process, and said life was far better in the country since the latter began.

He said before the peace process an average of 90 people were being killed every year, meaning around 900 lives had been saved in the last 10 years.

The analyst added that among Republicans there was "no appetite" for a return to violence.

Dr Wilford said it was only the political, not the peace, process that had "run into the buffers".

But Dr Feeney said Republicans didn't hold that view, because as they see it the assembly and devolved government are "not the agreement".

"The agreement is between Britain and Ireland and it will remain. It's an international treaty," he said.

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