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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Who stands where on devolution
As the parties involved in talks on the future government of Northern Ireland take part in this week's key summit in Scotland, we take a look at the key issues and players. BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Martina Purdy reports

The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended on 14 October 2002 when unionist confidence in power-sharing with Sinn Fein collapsed.

The Ulster Unionist Party was already threatening to end power-sharing in the autumn of that year because of on-going IRA activity and slow progress on decommissioning.

The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended in 2002
But the assembly's fate was actually sealed when the police raided Stormont on 4 October, amid allegations of an IRA spy ring.

The court case that followed collapsed and one of those involved, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a British agent.

The prime minister subsequently warned there would be no progress without the IRA committing itself exclusively to a peaceful path.

In return for what he called "acts of completion" by the IRA, Tony Blair said he would fully implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Since suspension there have been several failed attempts to restore devolution and deal with outstanding issues.

Along the way some issues have been dealt with including IRA decommissioning and demilitarisation by the Army and police.

Decommissioning, it has been reported, was completed last year, and demilitarisation is ahead of schedule with troop levels due to fall to 5,000 at 11 locations by next August.

But a much-anticipated deal to restore devolution spectacularly fell apart in the autumn of 2003 when the then Ulster Unionist leader pulled the plug at the last minute over the refusal of the IRA to be more open about the nature of decommissioning.

In the assembly election that November, the DUP became the dominant voice of unionism in the Assembly while Sinn Fein overtook the nationalist SDLP.

The government restored the assembly in May this year, but did not give it any power.

Without the devolution of power Sinn Fein refuses to take part in what it says are meaningless debates.

In June, the British and Irish prime ministers set a deadline of 24 November for the DUP, Sinn Fein and the other parties to agree devolution.

Without a deal, the government has vowed to close the assembly, and remove members' salaries.

The Independent Monitoring Commission on paramilitary activity has reported this month that the IRA is winding up key departments and is no longer involved in intelligence gathering, or targeting.

The government has said the outstanding issues are Sinn Fein's refusal to sign up to the policing service and agreement on new operating rules for the assembly and executive.

The government is hoping for progress at the St Andrews talks on 11-13 October.





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