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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Suspension to create 'breathing space'
Stormont crisis is coming to a head
Assembly has been put on ice
The suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly will create "a breathing space" that will allow the peace process to move forward, the secretary of state has said.

Addressing parliament on Tuesday, John Reid was speaking for the first time since the re-introduction of direct rule to the province.

The power-sharing executive was suspended for the fourth time at midnight on Monday following allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in the Northern Ireland Office. Four people have been charged over the claims.

Dr Reid called for co-operation from all parties and said the government was "fully committed" to the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement.

John Reid: Secretary of State
John Reid: Fully committed to the Agreement

"We will make every effort to find a way to bring back the devolved institutions as quickly as possible.

The role and the responsibility of the political parties in achieving this is vital," he said.

"It is our aim to find a basis on which all of the political institutions can be brought back into operation as soon as possible."

Dr Reid said until devolution was restored: "The three priorities for the government are the good governance of Northern Ireland, carrying forward the agreement and addressing the present impasse."

"They will inform the approach of the government over the coming weeks and months."

Dr Reid also outlined the portfolios that have been given to the new Northern Ireland Office ministers MPs Angela Smith and Ian Pearson, which include environment, culture, arts and leisure, and regional development, and industry and trade, agriculture and finance.

NIO ministerial responsibility
NI Secretary John Reid - Overall responsibility
Minister of State Jane Kennedy - Security, Education, Employment and learning
Des Browne - Health, Equality, Human Rights, Community relations
Ian Pearson - Finance, Economy, Agriculture
Angela Smith - Environment, Regional Development, Culture and Arts

He told MPs that elections to the Assembly next May would go ahead as planned.

He added that his ministers would not shirk from making hard decisions now they have taken over responsibility for governing the province.

Meanwhile, Irish Premier Bertie Ahern has told the Dail that the republican movement needs to move more quickly from paramiltiarism to normal constitutional politics.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has challenged the British and Irish governments to spell out how they intend to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Adams said the current impasse could be sorted out - but required movement on the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Also on Tuesday, a leading clergy man called for the IRA to say the war was over for good as a first step towards rebuilding the trust needed to revive the Northern Ireland political process.

Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames said it was time for loyalist and republican paramilitaries to announce the threat of violence was lifted.

Addressing a meeting of his Armagh Diocesan Synod on Tuesday, the Church of Ireland primate appealed for an end to the violence in society.

Dr Eames also said it was a tragedy that the structures of government had "collapsed".

Following the announcement of suspension on Monday, the two governments said they were both "deeply saddened" by developments.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley - whose two ministers resigned from the executive on Friday - said any talks to find a new political settlement must be held after an assembly election was called.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said there must be a determined effort to deal with the underlying confidence issues.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said talks now needed to focus on the activities of paramilitaries.

US President George W Bush said he supported the "difficult but necessary" decision to suspend.

Earlier this month, Mr Trimble said his party would pull out of power sharing unless the UK Government proposed the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the Stormont administration.

Unionists demanded Sinn Fein's expulsion from government over allegations of IRA activity, including claims it was involved in training left-wing Colombian guerrillas and was behind a break-in at the police's Belfast headquarters in March.

BBC NI's London correspondent Stephen Walker:
"John Reid is prepared for a sustained period of direct rule"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
12 Oct 02 | N Ireland
11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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