BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: N Ireland  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 15:46 GMT
'Doubt' over assembly elections
Power-sharing executive was suspended in October
Power-sharing executive was suspended in October
Doubts over whether elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly should take place in May have been voiced by the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Mr Trimble's comments followed a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street on Tuesday to discuss ways of restoring devolution to the province.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since 14 October following a row over allegations of IRA activity, including intelligence gathering at Stormont.

Mr Trimble said he wanted to see political differences over decommissioning resolved but he admitted that there was little time to secure a resolution before May.

What we now want to hear from the prime minister is what he believes the republican movement must do to put the process back on its feet

David Trimble
UUP leader

Mr Trimble said time was running out for a decision on whether the institutions could be restored.

He said: "The government will have to take a decision on this and will have to take a decision fairly soon.

"There is a question of whether there is any point in having an election to an institution that no longer exists and what the practical consequences of that would be."

The hour-long meeting was the first in a series Tony Blair is holding this week with Northern Ireland parties.

Mr Trimble has also confirmed that he has requested a meeting with Sinn Fein.

Tuesday's talks were the first in a series of meetings, with the prime minister expected to meet delegations from Sinn Fein and the SDLP later in the week.

They followed other such discussions towards the end of last year.

Mr Trimble along with party colleagues Michael McGimpsey, James Cooper and David Campbell were at the meeting.

Transition

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said unionists should "end their inconsistency and get down to the real business of moving out of the political crisis".

He pointed out that Mr Trimble had offered to hold talks with Sinn Fein after walking out of multi-party talks before Christmas.

Is this statement now DUP party policy or is Mr Hay running ahead of his leader

Michael McGimpsey
Ulster Unionist

"Now that he has clarified his resonance to meet Sinn Fein in a bilateral, there is no excuse for him not participating in the all-party talks," said Mr Durkan.

"While he may pursue with Sinn Fein his single item agenda there is a need for him to deal with all of the issues with all of the parties in round-table form."

Mr Trimble walked out of the last meeting - with the British and Irish Governments at Stormont - over a leaked Irish Government position paper which said the IRA was still active.

In October, Mr Blair called for "acts of completion" from the republican movement to demonstrate that it has made the transition from violence to democracy.

He said this would enable the government to fully implement its part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein blame the difficulties in the process on unionists.

Blame game

"The unionists decided to pull down institutions which were driving the whole process forward," said assembly member Gerry Kelly.

"They were bringing us out of the conflict and were working and now we are in the situation where we have no institutions."

Meanwhile, a senior member of the DUP said his party could "do business" with Sinn Fein but only if it became a normal constitutional party.

DUP Foyle assembly member William Hay
William Hay: His party could "do business" with Sinn Fein

Assembly member Willie Hay said that republicans would have to make clear their war was over and provide a timetable for IRA disbandment.

"We are saying clearly to the republican movement if you want to be involved," said the Foyle assembly member.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Michael McGimpsey called for clarification from the DUP leadership following the comments.

"This is an interesting development. But we need clarification from the DUP leadership, mainly Dr Paisley and Mr Robinson on what this actually means," he said.

"Is this statement now DUP party policy or is Mr Hay running ahead of his leader?"

Following the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont, current legislation dictates that the British and Irish Governments must review the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on which devolution was based.

But unless some common ground can be found between the parties on how to proceed, there is no mechanism for reinstating Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive.

Both the governments have stressed that there will be no re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carole Walker
"He wanted to see the IRA complete the decommissioning"
David Trimble, Ulster Unionist leader
"We do want to see this agreement fully implemented"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more N Ireland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes