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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 19:08 GMT
Stormont deadlock: What next for Northern Ireland?
A petition by anti-Good Friday Agreement unionists has delayed the vote for new Northern Ireland first and deputy first ministers by 24 hours.

Deputy Assembly Speaker Donovan McClelland of the nationalist SDLP confirmed that while a debate on the re-designation of Alliance MLAs to unionists would take place, there would be no vote until Tuesday.

The announcement came as the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party had a legal challenge against a deal aimed at allowing David Trimble to be re-elected as first minister dismissed by a High Court judge.

Mr Trimble failed to secure his election on Friday by the narrowest of margins after two members of his own party failed to support him. As a result, he did not have the required unionist majority.

Were the dissident unionists right to vote against Mr Trimble in the first place? What should the government do now? And can the deadlock between the parties now be resolved?


The extremists will be severely marginalised. But that's why they don't want the process to work, isn't it?

James, UK
Those seeking to destroy the Good Friday Agreement, agreed by the overwhelming majority of NI, should not be allowed to use its provisions to do so. It's ironic that the hardline Unionist bigots, who for 50 years used gerrymandering to suppress the rights of minorities, are using mechanisms designed to protect minorities to destroy the democratic will of the people. They, in concert with criminals and terrorists, have delayed this agreement by over a generation and can't be allowed to anymore. Get on with life, make the agreement work and improve the lot of everyone in Northern Ireland. Then the extremists will be severely marginalised. But that's why they don't want the process to work, isn't it?
James, UK

If the British Prime Minister had been straight with the unionist people in the first place instead of lying to them when he wrote his 5 promises up on the wall we wouldn't be in this situation because the unionist people wouldn't have voted in this sell-out of an agreement.
Chris, Ireland

Think about it from a Unionist perspective - the UK doesn't want them, the Republic doesn't want them. The only asset they ever had was the ability to be the "injured party" thanks to IRA violence, and now that's gone. There's a certain perverse logic to stalling the peace process from their point of view.
Fred, Belgium

Stormont is no longer a Protestant parliament for Protestant people

Kevin Rooney, Northern Ireland
As a member of the Young Ulster Unionists, I find the antics of my fellow unionists appalling. Let it be clear, David Trimble will be re-elected as First Minister, with the SDLP's Mark Durkin as his deputy. The antics of the DUP is only prolonging the procedure. As rightly pointed out by Roy Hattersley in today's Guardian, Stormont is no longer a Protestant parliament for Protestant people. We are now engaging our Catholic neighbours. We here at the UUP have realised that. However, the DUP have failed to grasp that ideology.
Kevin Rooney, Northern Ireland

The peace process has a chance of working only if it is conducted entirely within the rule of law. Ever since Trimble resigned we have seen repeated twisting and bending of the rules under which the assembly exists, and those involved have to realise this will only undermine the legitimacy of whatever they do.
Bernard, UK

The politicians in Northern Ireland need to grow up and start to work together for a better future for both communities. Mr Paisley you are a very good Christian preacher. Please show the love of Christ to the Catholic community, so that when they look at us believers, they can see the work of our Saviour in our lives.
Augusto de Freitas, Portugal

I am disgusted to read comments from so-called 'Brits' who would want a chance to vote Northern Ireland out of the Union. Let me remind them that it was the 36th Ulster Division that won the battle of the Somme.
Paul Givan, Northern Ireland

The rules were laid down and everyone agreed to them so stick to them

Ricci Coulter, NI
It is strange how the SDLP Sinn Fein and the Alliance party are now all shouting about the system being wrong and that a majority should decide and not a minority. They did not complain when the SDLP/Sinn Fein grouping used the same tactic to ensure that Sinn Fein remained in the assembly. The majority voted to expel them but the SDLP made it a vote of matter, which ensured that it could only succeed if both sides agreed. If one did not it failed. The troubles started 30 years ago and one of the reasons was gerrymandering in politics. Looking at the way the rules are changed daily to get the decision the governments want has much changed. The rules were laid down and everyone agreed to them so stick to them.
Ricci Coulter, NI

It's ironic that the hardline Unionists who invented Gerrymandering to suppress the rights of minorities for over 50 years in NI, are now using techniques designed to protect minorities to bring about the collapse of the peace process. Paisley and his ilk, aided and abetted by terrorists on both sides have delayed viable power sharing for a generation. They can't be allowed to hold it up any more.
Jim, UK

Could you imagine what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot?

Trevor McAfee, Northern Ireland
The fact is, that well over 60-70% of unionists are against this currant process┐the pro-agreement party's are going to cheat their way to the assembly. What about the majority of unionists, it doesn't matter about us, so called wreckers. Could you imagine what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot? Could you imagine the ruckus from Sinn Fein? I think its time for the DUP to use the European courts for our benefit for a change┐
Trevor McAfee, Northern Ireland

Looks like Northern Ireland now has an electoral process that Robert Mugabe would be proud of. Westminster decides who should win, and then set up the process to allow it to happen. What can we expect next? John Reid sending in the IRA War Veterans to "reclaim" Protestant farms?
Ronald Sweeney, Zimbabwe

It is not submitting to hardliners simply to accept that re-elections must take place. The new leader of the Assembly must have a mandate. I just wish it could have been Trimble as he is the most charismatic moderate in the province. Anything would be better than a return to direct rule - in such an instance, no one will have a say in NI and nothing will get done!
Mike, Czech Rep.

What is needed is an overhaul of the voting system to allow the peace process to continue with less petty bickering

Oliver Barker, UK
The current objections by the DUP are an attempt to force a new round of elections for the assembly, the reasoning being that they were able to poach a lot of support from the UUP at the last General Election. All the rhetoric about democracy is a sham - the NI assembly is not a democratic body. Anyone whose primary party is not unionist or republican, like supporters of the Alliance Party or Women's Coalition, is not represented as the voting system does not allow for third party support. What is needed is an overhaul of the voting system to allow the peace process to continue with less petty bickering.
Oliver Barker, UK

Part of me is amused at the fact that, after all his brinkmanship, David Trimble's tactics have finally turned around and bit him back. If he hadn't been bailing out and resigning every few months for the past year or so, he wouldn't have needed to get himself re-elected. Sadly, though, the true losers in all this are the people of Northern Ireland, who yet again have to sit and fume at the incompetence of their so-called political leaders. As for Ian Paisley's party calling itself democratic, what a laugh. They went through none of the pain of having to negotiate to get the peace deal, yet they were quick enough to want their noses in the trough when it came to the power being handed out. Anyone who votes for them deserves the acronym that goes with being a Democratic Unionist Party Elector.
David Hazel, UK

How about including the rest of the UK on the Northern Irish vote. I'd like to vote them out the Union.
Andy, UK

I agree with Andy. The rest of the UK should be allowed to vote on whether we want the union to continue.
Ewan, England

As far as I'm concerned as a UK resident, NI should be told that they face two choices. The first is to live with the Assembly as is with Trimble as leader. The second is to follow Paisley and for the rest of the UK to ditch Ulster. As far as I'm concerned, the IRA have begun decommissioning. Now it's the unionists' turn to stand behind the people who want to make the agreement work. If they don't want to do this, why should the rest of the UK keep bailing them out again and again?
John Denham, UK

This process still has a long way to run. The unionists, realising that the next move must come from loyalist paramilitaries, are trying to create a diversion to avoid the sought of tough pressures which they have applied to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness over the past two years.
Rhys Jaggar, England

Another round of petty senseless bickering - that Northern Ireland believes to be politics.
Dave Allen, London, UK

I had to smile when I heard that one of David Trimble's 'own' didn't vote for him. It proves to me that decommissioning was just an excuse to stall the peace process. Now that's been dealt with, the other excuses have begun.
Maureen McKenna, Australia

The only option left will be the suspension of an unworkable arrangement and a renegotiation of the agreement

T Reynolds, USA
It's disappointing that a couple of rebels within the UUP have prevented the restoration of the assembly, but the rules must be respected, and fresh elections called. In light of current sentiment within the province, odds are a fresh election will produce an even more polarised assembly, which will be even less able to come to agreement on this matter, and so the only option left will be suspension of an unworkable arrangement, and, ultimately, renegotiation of the agreement to produce something that is workable.
T Reynolds, USA

Do people actually think that the IRA have decommissioned? I find this statement quite funny, as it would take years to rid the country of any arms that the IRA have in their possession. As far as David Trimble is concerned he is just a puppet that various political parties can manipulate to get what they want. I admire those who stood against David Trimble, but in particular Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage. I believe that the Alliance parties move today just proves even more that the agreement is anti unionist and pro nationalist, as now 100% of nationalist's parties support the move to re-elect David Trimble. The Voting system that Mr Trimble and the other Pro agreement parties agreed to is what has forced him out. So I ask you why do they argue with a system that they all agreed to?
Ian R Collen, Northern Ireland

Not really. When the situation appeared to move favourably, another setback came as an unpleasant surprise to the peace-makers. In a way, this episode will delay the peace process for many more months. However, IRA should continue its policy of decommissioning of arms in the hope that things will take favourable turn with the announcement of fresh elections and facilitation of future government formation with David Trimble at the helm of affairs.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland

If you held the same vote today the GFA would no longer exis

Neill, The Netherlands
It amazes me to read some comments suggesting the voting of Northern Ireland out of the Union. I was born in Belfast, have a British passport and therefore have as much right to be a British citizen as someone born in London, Edinburgh or Cardiff. The voting system that has caused this problem was proposed by the SDLP, not the Unionists. The protestant people who voted yes to the GFA were duped into believing that the IRA would totally decommission before their political wing took their seats, not wait 3 years for a token disarmament, held in secret. If you held the same vote today the GFA would no longer exist, and what right does a process have, if it does not represent the majority of the population? That's true democracy in action.
Neill, The Netherlands

I think the "Reverend" Ian Paisley should be the one who is decommissioned! How this man got elected to any body of government is a joke. Trimble is not to blame for this and neither is the UUP. Blame the DUP - their biased rants put even Sinn Fein in the shade!
Andrew Leitch, Scotland

As someone who voted yes in the original referendum, I would take some persuading to vote at all next time - if there were elections again. I am the kind of voter that scares the government and the Ulster Unionists - but surely I should be allowed my democratic right to have my say. The MLA, who I voted for last time out is not speaking on my behalf anymore, and I for one would appreciate the democratic right to express my view on the peace process again. If the rules are changed, the peace process will lose what credibility it retains, and the whole thing can only be viewed as another shame. Hold elections now, to at least let the people who have lived with reduced terrorism for the last six years - because it hasn't gone away you know - have their say.
Keith Thompson, N Ireland

Fresh faces are needed

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
I am not too concerned about Trimble failing to become the first minister because I feel he is more part of the hard or square-headed unionist that assimilate with Paisley rather than a leader with vision and ability to handle neutrally the true causes of the NI trouble. Fresh faces are needed. Faces free from the ties that bind the old ones.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

This is another example of the different sides involved not really wanting a solution to the problem in Northern Ireland. As with every other dispute in the world involving two separate communities, there has to be an element of give and take. Why don't they allow the IRA to prove that they are really willing to disarm this time before they undermine the negotiations by saying that they don't believe it to be true? In a few months time if nothing has happened then let's start again. One day this problem will have to be solved and it is obvious that neither side will get everything that they want. But at least they could start by ending the violence.
Phil T, Oman

The Unionists that have voted against David Trimble should hang their heads in shame. The IRA's decision to decommission its arms was a momentous step forward to solving the problems, and these Unionists have shunned a great chance to move towards peace in Northern Ireland. It's time people grew up, put pettiness aside and think of Northern Ireland and its people's best interests.
John Squire, England

Fifty-one percent of Unionists don't want Trimble. Therefore according to the Good Friday Agreement he can't be elected. All the pro-agreement commentators on this board seem to ignore this or wish to change this. Accept the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety, and do not pick and choose which parts suit and which parts do not. If the Alliance Party re-designates as Unionists, Trimble and everyone else will know that he does not represent the majority of Unionists. If everyone is so committed to democracy, then why not have new elections? Perhaps because the true representative face of Unionism will emerge now that the Unionist people have seen that they were duped by Blair et al.
James Welsh, Paraguay

The NI Secretary should ignore this vote and proceed with the wishes of the majority

Steve Wallis, England
What on earth have Ian Paisley and his is ilk got to smile about? The people of NI deserve better and have voted for a devolved assembly. I cannot believe these non-agreement, arrogant politicians have the power to bring down the assembly. The NI Secretary should ignore this vote and proceed with the wishes of the majority. Only in NI could such a complicated voting system be devised. As an Englishman I am increasingly fed up with the antics of some Unionists and I wonder why Mr Blair does not give the English, Scots and Welsh the chance to vote to decide if we want NI to remain part of the UK.
Steve Wallis, England

Well done to Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage for standing up for the majority of Unionist wishes and not following the failed policies of Trimble and the rest of the sheep in the UUP.
Keith Mills, Dublin, Ireland

I am saddened by the defeat of David Trimble. He showed courage when his detractors in the DUP hid behind their so-called Loyalist beliefs and barked their denunciation of him and his party. Mr Paisley and his fanatics will never share political power with anyone who is not of their own sordid type. The people of Ulster, given the opportunity of new elections, should show their admiration for David Trimble and his party, and vote him back into office, with an unassailable majority. Any man who can stand up to the IRA and look them in the eye, like he did, in order to win a lasting peace for his country and his people deserves to be the leader of his people. Vote him back into the leadership, and take the smirk off the face of the DUP.
Michael O' Gorman, Republic of Ireland

This proves that the voting system in the assembly is fatally flawed

How on earth could 70 percent of an institution's vote not be enough to elect a leader? This proves the Alliance Party's claim that the voting system in the assembly is fatally flawed.

First the Unionists say that they cannot participate in the executive until the Provisional IRA has started decommissioning. Now the PIRA has started decommissioning and the Unionists still won't participate in the executive. Why won't they just be honest and admit that they will never participate in any form of government that involves Catholics?
Diarmid Logan, USA

Diarmid Logan's comments are farcical. The fact is that the UUP wanted decommissioning before going into government with SF - they were always ready to share power with the SDLP. They have got decommissioning and have gone back into government. But this setback is not due to the UUP but two rebels out of their 28 MLAs. That's a huge difference from the UUP not wanting to share power with Catholics, don't you think?
Mike, England/NI

Why can't the Good Friday Agreement be treated like a constitution? It's been negotiated and agreed by all parties. It should now be non-negotiable. Shouldn't the hardliners who are opposed to the agreement simply be prevented from endangering the process in this way?
Peter Aspey, Netherlands

It's high time democracy was allowed to run its course

Maire, USA
It's high time democracy was allowed to run its course. There is no legitimate reason to circumvent the call for fresh elections as mandated in the Good Friday Agreement - all over again.
Maire, USA

Mrs Armitage has stated that she does not care for the direction that the peace process is taking. I find that to be one of the most naked confessions of her bias and unwillingness to live at peace with her Catholic neighbours. I am completely disgusted with the farce of Unionism currently practiced by the DUP and others of their ilk.
Michael Crowley, USA

There's no harm in giving way to fresh blood

Peter, Finland
There's no harm in giving way to fresh blood. Anyway, Trimble could step in as a candidate again and still win.
Peter, Finland

Could the Alliance Party have saved the assembly today by re-designating? They are not helping their cause by not helping Trimble and if elections are called they are going to suffer.
John Haran, N Ireland

The majority of Unionists are against this appeasement process. This cannot be ignored forever. Sooner or later the people will have their say. Trimble has forgotten his principles as laid out in his manifesto. He has turned the process into a personal vendetta against Ian Paisley. He has turned democracy in N Ireland into a farce and brought shame to a once great party.
William Glendinning, Northern Ireland

I am disgusted with my fellow unionists

Liam Gordon, NI
I'm afraid that this vote illustrates what some nationalists have been saying for many years - a majority of unionists don't want peace if it means powersharing with Catholics. I am disgusted with my fellow unionists - they seem content to live with the old, safe certainties of the Troubles but unwilling to embrace a peaceful, inclusive future. Trimble got 70% of the vote - that should be enough.
Liam Gordon, NI

Trimble voted down by his own party. I wonder how the members of the DUP would vote if their party was as democratic. Who, in their right mind, believes that new elections are a good idea? Only hardliners. Just shows that some people are never happy.
Stephen, N.I.

We should very clearly send the message that "we don't want union with you" to those so-called unionists who voted against Trimble.
Malc E, Brit in Turkey

I am so incensed by this action on the part of the hardline Unionists that I'm almost speechless. They have blocked (or seriously hindered) a democratic and peaceful solution to an inflammatory situation. How can anyone take them seriously ever again? They should be totally shunned now by all rational people in the province ... the aim should be to marginalise them as soon as possible. I speak as a Protestant ... but then, like most people, I don't see a simple difference of church within the same religion (or even, it should be added, between different religions) to be a basis for hatred. These people are beyond contempt.
John Bligh, London, UK

The unionists are shooting themselves in the foot

Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland
Even I agree with my Irish office co-workers that the unionists are shooting themselves in the foot. If they don't want Mr Trimble, the mind boggles as to who they think could possibly be better.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland

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