Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Where do the NI parties stand?

As efforts continue to kick-start the stalled political process, BBC Northern Ireland's politics team have written a series of articles looking at the key issues for the main parties.

DUP - MARK DEVENPORT

DUP leader Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley said the IMC report "justified" doubts over IRA arms
Northern Ireland's biggest party, the DUP, came close to doing a deal with Sinn Fein in December 2004.

But now it appears in no mood to share power with republicans in the near or medium-term future.

The DUP is unhappy with many aspects of direct rule, including Peter Hain's proposed reforms of local government and education.

SINN FEIN - MARTINA PURDY

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness
Sinn Fein may opt to play a long game over policing
Sinn Fein's spin machine has been working overtime lately.

It follows the debacle over "on-the-run" fugitives, the "Stormontgate" spy affair, and the International Monitoring Commission report which accused republicans of illegally gathering intelligence, among other things.

The party was undoubtedly bruised over the OTR legislation, and forced into a U-turn before Christmas.

SDLP - MARTINA PURDY

SDLP leader Mark Durkan
SDLP leader Mark Durkan's fortunes have improved
The SDLP leadership might have brightened when it heard Martin McGuinness reminding listeners that the SDLP had long been dismissed as the "Stoop Down Low Party".

The fact that the Sinn Fein negotiator made the effort to attack means the SDLP is still viewed as a threat.

ULSTER UNIONISTS - MARK DEVENPORT

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey
UUP leader Sir Reg Empey wants the Stormont rules changed
The Ulster Unionists showed in the old executive at Stormont that they were willing to share power with Sinn Fein.

But now, in the wake of the latest Independent Monitoring Commission report, the party says the immediate return of a power-sharing executive is not on the political radar.

Instead, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey says the report proves that republicans cannot let go of crime or covert intelligence gathering.

ALLIANCE PARTY - GARETH GORDON

Alliance leader David Ford
Alliance leader David Ford has shown his frustration
The Alliance Party's frustration after recent meetings with ministers has been ill-disguised, as was leader David Ford's anger with Peter Hain following the Northern Ireland secretary's threat to cut the salaries of assembly members if there isn't progress by the summer.

The gist of Mr Ford's argument is, "tell me what we have done wrong" - especially since the cross-community party is unlikely to qualify for any new executive.



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