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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Sinn Fein exclusion debate scheduled
Stormont assembly
Motion could come before assembly next week
The Northern Ireland Assembly is to debate two unionist motions to exclude Sinn Fein from the power-sharing executive next Monday.

On Tuesday afternoon, the assembly's business committee placed Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's motion calling for Sinn Fein to be excluded from the executive onto the assembly agenda.

However, the committee has decided that a similar rival motion from the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party will also be debated.

The UUP leader and DUP leader Ian Paisley had tabled similar rival motions calling for Sinn Fein's exclusion from the assembly executive because of the IRA's refusal to decommission.

After several weeks of negotiations with other unionist parties, both leaders managed to gain the necessary 30 signatures of support needed to table their motions.

David Trimble's ministers will leave office if motion fails
David Trimble's ministers will leave office if motion fails

The business committee decided that the UUP motion would take precedence and that David Trimble would open and close a four hour debate.

A motion attempting to exclude Sinn Fein, tabled by the DUP last July, was unsuccessful.

The latest motion would need to gain cross-party support - including the support of the nationalist SDLP to be passed by the assembly.

Mr Trimble said last month he believed he could persuade the SDLP to support his exclusion motion because republicans had defaulted on their responsibilities under the Agreement.

But on Tuesday he said the Northern Ireland Assembly was bound come to tumbling down if the motion fails.

He said: "If that (the exclusion motion) does not achieve cross-community support then we will have created a situation where it would be impossible for Ulster Unionist ministers to continue in administration.

"We are now coming to a situation where the probability is that the Northern Ireland Administration will cease to be some time next week."

Mr Paisley had secured the necessary 30 signatures to table his motion on Monday when he secured the signature of a member of David Trimble's assembly party, Pauline Armitage.

But in an eleventh hour move, David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, said he and his assembly colleague Billy Hutchinson had signed Mr Trimble's motion.

Mr Trimble welcomed the PUP decision to support his party's motion saying it was a "positive development".

He also said he would be talking to the Secretary of State John Reid about the mechanics of withdrawing from the executive.

He said the UUP, unlike the DUP, would "not vote for Sinn Fein's exclusion one minute and then continue in government with them the next after a motion has been defeated".

Trimble withdrawal threat

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trimble said the undertaking that he gave that his party would withdraw from the executive if their motion was unsuccessful, still stood.

Ian Paisley gained the support needed for his motion on Monday
Ian Paisley gained the support needed for his motion on Monday
And speaking on BBC Radio Ulster he said: "We have taken this decision and we know that that has implications for our participation in the administration. We will see those implications through."

If Mr Trimble withdraws his party from the executive it will collapse the political institutions.

Under the current legislation the collapse of the powersharing arrangement would trigger an assembly election.

The Northern Ireland secretary could, however, return Northern Ireland to direct rule from Westminster.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the Ulster Unionist motion was the culmination of Mr Trimble's threat to cause a crisis in the political institutions.

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein
Gerry Kelly: "Motions will not make IRA move"
"I look upon this as a self-destruct scenario. It's more than cutting off your nose to spite your face. What they are doing is pulling everything down," he said.

Mr Trimble also met Irish premier Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Tuesday to further discuss the reasons behind his party's attempts to exclude Sinn Fein from the executive.

He also met Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan, Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn, the British Ambassador Sir Ivor Roberts and the new American Ambassador Richard Egan.

The moves to try to exclude Sinn Fein are continuing as the political process faces another crisis deadline.

On 21 September Dr Reid suspended the assembly for 24 hours to save it from collapse, giving another six-week period in which to try to resolve the issues blocking the process.

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 ON THIS STORY
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble:
"We are not going say it is wrong for Sinn Fein ministers to hold office but continue to share power with them"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

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SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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See also:

02 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble executive withdrawal threat
01 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Assembly to debate exclusion motion
23 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble threat to exclude Sinn Fein
24 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists wrangle over SF exclusion
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