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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
What difference will NI elections make?
The Northern Ireland Assembly is due to hold elections on 26 November, Downing Street has confirmed.

The announcement is the result of months of negotiations between the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein.

The deal is believed to include a third act of decommissioning by the IRA.

The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended amid allegations that an IRA intelligence-gathering ring was operating within the Stormont government.

What difference will the NI elections make? Will this put the peace process back on track?

The comments published reflect the balance of views received:

At least momentum in the process has been restored
Mark, Ireland
At least momentum in the process has been restored - the difference the elections shall make is effective representation shall be restored and economic regeneration of the north can continue in a climate of relative political certainty and NI governance can concentrate on the day to day issues rather than continually wrestling with itself, preoccupied with the intangible constitutional position. This is what shall hopefully happen - the old green, orange divide shall blur even more into a pro - anti agreement one - still a divide, but a healthier one based on democratic outlook and aspiration....this is all assuming that the UUP can mange to keep itself intact through all of this..
Mark, Ireland

What surprises me is that in the Middle East we pursue the 'war on terror', whilst in NI, which is on our territory, we negotiate as if the terrorist was legitimate. Where's the logic in that? Or is murder and violence different when it is perpetrated against our own population on our own sovereign territory? Life is cheap when it's politically expedient.
Mike H, UK

Hopefully this is a positive move. Not the United Ireland of my dreams, but a fair and just society respectful of both traditions may not be far down the road. The next step is to tackle sectarianism and bigotry head-on wherever it manifests itself. Be it in the home, community, school, or place of work. Meas Mór to all concerned.
Ciarán, Conamara W Ireland

Hopefully the NI elections will not make much difference. Hopefully the elections will strengthen the pro-agreement parties, especially those in the political centre and not the extremists on both sides. That will put the peace process back on track.
Dr Jan Brouwer, The Netherlands

Why has the direction of Irish politics being the 'unity' question? Other islands of the world survive with two or more nation-states living alongside. Republicans need to focus on local issues and not fairytale fantasies!
Gordy, Co Down, UK

The elections will make a great difference if people vote for truly anti-sectarian parties instead of the same old shower. In the Good Friday Agreement we voted for peace and progress, and all the main parties have given us is five and a half years self-interested wrangling. Isn't it time to give those who have never been an obstacle to peace a chance?
Brian, Northern Ireland

Hopefully we can move on over the 'decommissioning hump' as no one in their right mind can believe it is anything but a symbolic move anyway. I fully support any progress as ultimately I do not care if I live in Northern Ireland or a united Ireland as long as I can work, earn money and live my life without the threat that someone will detonate a bomb near me. I also hope this process will see an end to the organised crime of all paramilitary factions.
Dave, N Ireland

The elections would be good if we had an executive that would do something
Garry, N. Ireland
The elections would be good if we had an executive that would do something. The whole political structure here in NI is sectarian. All the parties on the day to day bread and butter issues like education, health, transport are identical, the only differences are united Ireland or not.
Are the parties going to scrap plans to introduce water charges, get government to upgrade the sewerage systems, not introduce tuition fees for students, scrap the 11+, not introduce business rates. Upgrade the rail infrastructure and extend it with money/assistance from the EU or adopt the Euro throughout NI?
Garry, N. Ireland

This has to be welcomed. At least Sinn Fein and the I.R.A. are trying to take the gun out of Irish politics. What about Loyalist weapons? They haven't gone away you know.
Alan Loughnane, Ireland

This is a good thing. Do those of you complaining about lack of decommissioning think it's worth going back to what was happening before? It's happening slowly, each side giving a little, then the other. There will always be sticks to beat each other with, because both sides did some bad things - the only way to peace is to accept that and move on.
Katherine, UK

The IRA is a private army, and private armies are illegal. Why is decommissioning even a part of the bargaining?
Simon Stevens, UK

This is indeed good news! Gerry Adams has taken a bold step as has the entire Republican movement. We now have to see similar bold moves from Unionism and the Irish and British Government to implement and sustain the Good Friday Agreement! To Cliff in England. putting weapons 'Beyond Use' means exactly that as verified by the International Decommissioning body appointed by the two Governments!
I would also like to ask why some of the contributors are so anti people having their democratic right to vote restored to them and allowing Irish people to determine their own future! After all the empire is dead!
Paul Whean, Ireland

Unfortunately I doubt that the insatiable demands of Unionism will ever be met. The only solution is to do something along the lines of what was done with Hong Kong. The British government should declare that in ten years time they will agree to a united Ireland. That gives the anti-agreement unionists adequate time to either move to their beloved England or participate in a new Ireland.
Derek, Dublin, Ireland

I'm glad to see the elections called. It's what many people here in NI have been waiting for. I don't agree with the person who said that David Trimble has backed down in the face of terrorists. The IRA have had to back down, too. I hope the Assembly lasts this time and becomes a place where all sides can resolve their differences peacefully, without outside influence from any other government or illegal organisation.
Alan, Belfast

It has been 10 years since the IRA called the first "ceasefire" only to bomb Canary Wharf and Manchester shortly afterwards. They then signed up to the "Mitchell Principles" which said that they would decommission all their arms BEFORE a political agreement was signed. Then (without decommissioning) we had the Belfast Agreement which guaranteed decommissioning to be completed by May 2000. We're not complete mugs you know!
Keith Mills, Dublin, Ireland

This is just a small step in the right direction
Philip, UK
This is just a small step in the right direction, and gives a little bit of hope to the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, who just want to get on with their lives in a peaceful and civilised manner. Well done!
Philip, UK

Hopefully the proposals announced this afternoon will finally take the decommissioning issue out of NI politics. The serious business of building a consensus-based, power-sharing government can then get underway.
John Finnegan, N. Ireland

What has changed? I don't understand, the IRA/Sinn Fein haven't done anything. I'm amazed Trimble has given in. This is just another step on the road to a United Ireland and victory for the terrorist murderers. Sinn Fein will no doubt do well in the elections as they are positioning themselves as the party of peace. I don't believe it for a minute, a leopard cannot change its spots and people who were once prepared to murder innocents for the cause of unification won't now meekly sit in consensus pseudo-government with their mortal enemies.
Jon Cooper, UK

It might just convince people that that the Good Friday agreement can actually work. The problem is that the tension of decommissioning won't go away so its about time these two parties started putting actions to words.
Stephen Thompson, England

In response to Kita's comments. The C.I.R.A. and the P.I.R.A are not one and the same. The biggest problem in N.I. politics at the moment is that whenever there is any progress made by either Sinn Fein or the I.R.A someone always finds something else to throw back in their faces. I never have or will condone terrorist violence but the I.R.A is closer than ever to decommissioning but that still won't be good enough because they should make the C.I.R.A decommission also. This is significant progress and should be seen and welcomed as such!
Aidan, England

In customary fashion, David Trimble has backed down in the face of Sinn Fein/IRA pressure and returned to his favourite policy position - the u-turn. Time and time again, David Trimble has played the political macho-man flexing his muscles for all to see only to back-pedal at the crunch moment and have Sinn Fein/IRA kick sand in his face.
Ib Balicanta, Philippines/UK

The alternative to violence and terror in Northern Ireland is a proper democratic process, and the elections are a major step forward in that process. Excellent news!
John, UK

Hopefully peace. Terrorism has no place in NI.
Alex, England

Even if decommissioning happens someone is going to say something out of place and they'll be back at the start again
Ian S, UK, Birmingham
Even if decommissioning happens someone is going to say something out of place and they'll be back at the start again. You really have to ask whether peace is what they want to just an opportunity to score points off each other rather than shooting at each other.
Ian S, UK, Birmingham

Elections will make no difference so long as the government continues to appease the terrorist/criminal groups and giving in to them. Unless these criminal groups clearly and demonstrably give up their arms, and not just say that they are "beyond use" (what does that mean - sold to criminals on the mainland?) there will be no end to violence and the continued threat of terrorist acts.
Cliff, England

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NI elections date confirmed
21 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland
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