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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
Trimble issues Sinn Fein ultimatum
The DUP ministers will resign on Friday
The DUP ministers will resign on Friday
The Ulster Unionist Party is to pull out of power sharing in Northern Ireland within a week unless the government proposes the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the executive.

David Trimble has called on Tony Blair to send a motion for debate at the Northern Ireland Assembly, or his party would have "no alternative" but to withdraw from the Stormont government.

Mr Trimble said it was "no longer sustainable" to be in government with Sinn Fein, following allegations of IRA intelligence gathering within the Northern Ireland Office.

The Northern Ireland first minister made the comment following a meeting with Mr Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday.

David Trimble: Downing Street meeting
David Trimble: Downing Street meeting

The comments come amid fears for the future of the power-sharing executive.

Exclusion of Sinn Fein would allow the Stormont administration and Northern Irish devolution to survive, said Mr Trimble.

He later called for the complete disbandment of the IRA within days in order to save the peace process.

Arriving in Bournemouth for the Conservative Party conference, he told reporters that a government suspension of the assembly would be "a second best".

Mr Trimble has accused Sinn Fein of "political conspiracy on a massive scale" following the allegations of IRA intelligence gathering.

However, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said the government would not decide what steps to take until it had consulted with the other main Northern Ireland parties.

He acknowledged, however, that it was difficult to see how they could keep the devolved administration going.

"We are committed to try to get a way of proceeding with power-sharing but at the moment it isn't easy to see how we can find a way through," he said.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said Mr Blair should "defend the Good Friday Agreement."

He added that his party was not going to "toddle off into the sunset".

John Reid: Secretary of State
John Reid: "Committed to powersharing"

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Blair said he was "absolutely determined" to find a solution to the political deadlock.

Mr Blair said the Good Friday Agreement could only work if everyone accepted its "full principles" - including an end to violence.

DUP leader Ian Paisley accused Mr Trimble of trying to shift the responsibility for dealing with Sinn Fein on to the British Government.

"We have another fudge from Mr Trimble today and we now see that he isn't prepared himself to take the initiative and he wants the British Government to take the initiative," he said.

The allegations of intelligence gathering were debated by the Northern Ireland Assembly as the crisis within the political process deepened.

The DUP leader opened the debate and called for Dr Reid's resignation over the allegations that an IRA mole had been able to get access to sensitive NIO information.

He said it was time for unionists like those in his party to put Sinn Fein out of government in the way the "weak-kneed" British Government and Ulster Unionist Party had refused to do.

DUP minister Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson: To pull out of executive

He announced on Tuesday the resignations of DUP ministers Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds would take effect from noon on Friday.

The assembly motion tabled by the DUP, followed the police raid of Sinn Fein's Stormont office, and addresses in north and west Belfast, on Friday.

Four people were arrested. Three have appeared in court accused of having information of use to terrorists.

A fourth person is still being questioned by police investigating alleged IRA intelligence gathering.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has confirmed that police returned the two computer disks taken from its Stormont office on Friday.

The items were returned to the party's solicitors on Tuesday.

The round of political meetings have been continuing, with Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan holding talks with the Irish Prime Minister in Dublin.

Afterwards, Mr Durkan said allegations of republican wrong-doing had strengthened anti-Agreement unionists and made the collapse of the institutions more likely.

"Nothing should be allowed to set the Agreement back even if the institutions collapse," he said.

Mr Blair is to meet Mr Ahern on Wednesday and is also due to hold talks with Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and the SDLP's Mark Durkan.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"The government accepts the situation is grave"
Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble
"Sinn Fein should be excluded from the Administration"
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"At the moment it is not easy to see how we can find a way through"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

08 Oct 02 | N Ireland
07 Oct 02 | N Ireland
07 Oct 02 | N Ireland
05 Oct 02 | N Ireland
04 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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