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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
NI executive 'to be suspended'
Stormont crisis is coming to a head
Stormont crisis is coming to a head
Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive is to be suspended on Monday, government sources have told the BBC.

The fourth suspension is expected following the political crisis over allegations of IRA spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said his party would pull out of power sharing within a week unless the UK Government proposed the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the Stormont administration.

It is understood two extra ministers will be appointed to the Northern Ireland Office to take over the work of the executive, once direct rule from Westminster is re-introduced.

Reacting to the news, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister and SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he was not concerned so much about the manner in which the assembly might be suspended, but what was done during the suspension.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan:
SDLP leader Mark Durkan: "Agreement is not suspended"

And he said it was important to remember that the Agreement was not being suspended.

"Our agenda in the period which comes with suspension must be not just about making sure we bring back the institutions working as they were, but that we bring forward a project that completes the implementation of the Agreement," he said.

Mr Durkan added: "Clearly with all the benefits that we have had from the [IRA] ceasefire, we really need to be moving towards the situation where we have cease-army."

The developments come after a flurry of meetings involving the British and Irish governments and the political parties.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair said a decision on the future of the institutions would be taken within the next few days.

And leading a party delegation to meet Mr Blair in Downing Street on Thursday morning, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said suspension of the executive would be a mistake.

Mr Adams said it would characterise the political institutions as being "optional extras".

He added: "We put to him our view that there was no basis for the demand of the Ulster Unionist Party that our party should be expelled.

"Nationalists and republicans do not see the suspension at the whim of unionism as the least worst option. If Mr Trimble wants to walk, let him walk." But Mr Adams also acknowledged that disbandment of IRA was a "laudable and necessary objective of this process".

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Has been holding meetings over crisis

In an interview for the BBC, Mr Blair said the process had overcome crises before and would again, as it was the only way forward.

"We have to find the way of unblocking this political impasse because otherwise, it's the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer," he said. "There is no alternative to this."

And he warned that republicans could no longer operate a "dual strategy".

Sinn Fein are expected to travel to Dublin later on Thursday to hold talks with the Irish Government. On Friday, Mr Trimble is expected to meet Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

On Friday, the Democratic Unionist's Party's two Stormont ministers are to resign from their posts following the allegations of IRA intelligence gathering.

Charges

Meanwhile, the police have begun to alert about 2,000 prison staff that their personal details are in the hands of a paramilitary organisation.

This follows raids in north and west Belfast last Friday. Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont were also searched.

A fourth person is due in court in on Friday in connection with the raids.

Ciaran Kearney, 31, is a manager in a project of the Falls Community Council.

Three others arrested, as part of an ongoing investigation into IRA intelligence gathering within the Northern Ireland Office, have been charged with having information likely to be of use to terrorists.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Willcox
"Gerry Adams is arguing strongly that suspending the assembly would suit only the wreckers"
The BBC's Mark Simpson
"The countdown to the collapse of the Northern Ireland assembly has begun"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

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SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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See also:

10 Oct 02 | N Ireland
08 Oct 02 | N Ireland
07 Oct 02 | N Ireland
09 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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