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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 22:05 GMT
Ministers to tackle Holy Cross dispute
Challenge is over date for new assembly elections
Ministers are meeting North Belfast assembly members
The first and deputy first ministers are expected to meet North Belfast assembly members as part of efforts to end the loyalist protest at the Holy Cross Catholic girls' school.

Following Wednesday's executive meeting in which ministers were briefed on the situation, David Trimble and Mark Durkan both called for the protest to end.

Mr Trimble said children should have a clear path to school.

The first minister urged the residents of Glenbryn to stop their protest against Catholic girls going to primary school.

"While they have got real matters of concern, those matters of concern are not going to be properly addressed while these protests are continuing," he said.

The latest protest began in September.

Mr Trimble and deputy first minister Mr Durkan are also expected to make efforts to resolve the street violence in north Belfast.

Election

Earlier, the power-sharing executive met for the first time since the election of first and deputy first ministers last week.

It discussed budgetary priorities and the programme for devolved government which was debated by assembly members on Tuesday.

The anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party's two ministers did not attend the meeting, as they have a policy of not sitting in government with Sinn Fein.

Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers, of the nationalist SDLP, was also not present as she was attending a conference in London.

David Trimble was again proposed for re-election
David Trimble: First Minister

Mr Trimble told the assembly on Tuesday that the recurrent crisis in the process had prevented the executive making as much progress as it would have wished.

But he said he hoped the "distractions" of recent weeks would no longer delay his ministers in their task of making Northern Ireland a better place to live.

However, the executive meeting came against a backdrop of calls from UUP hardliners for a tightening of party policy.

The party's officers have received a petition containing the 60 signatures necessary to call a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council.

It has come from party members concerned about Mr Trimble's decision to go back into government with Sinn Fein. The ruling council is expected to meet next month.

IRA arms

The Ulster Unionist leader resigned as first minister and had withdrawn his party from the power-sharing executive to put pressure on the republican movement on the issue of IRA arms.

Following the IRA's move last month to put some of its weapons beyond use, Mr Trimble decided to stand for re-election as first minister.

He initially failed to get elected because two hardliners in his party joined DUP in voting against him.

Martin McGuinness:
Martin McGuinness: "Pro-Agreement unionists must support Trimble"

But he was successful in last week's vote and was elected first minister with the nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan as deputy first minister.

However, hardline Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the UUC meeting had been called to discuss the party's position at Stormont, because many members were still concerned about the prospects for total IRA decommissioning.

It is understood that efforts are being made by Mr Trimble's supporters to address the concerns of doubters and avoid the need for a council meeting.

Meanwhile, the DUP has been given the all-clear to proceed with further High Court action against Mr Trimble.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Kerr granted leave to the party's deputy leader, Peter Robinson, to incorporate an application for an injunction into the judicial review he was granted last week.

Mr Robinson is seeking to prevent Mr Trimble and Mr Durkan from fulfilling the functions of their office due to the manner in which they were elected.

Last week, he was also given leave to challenge Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid's decision not to call an assembly election until May 2003, after a statutory deadline for the election of the first and deputy first ministers expired.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
First Minister David Trimble:
"We want to see the protests end"
BBC NI political editor Mark Davenport
"Some politicians will be notable by their absence"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

13 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
DUP granted new legal challenge
06 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Governments welcome Trimble election
06 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: Trimble elected
13 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble may face party's ruling body
13 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Executive must create stability - Trimble
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