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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 06:57 GMT 07:57 UK
Devolution committee being set up
Members in the assembly chamber
The 108 assembly members met on 15 May
A cross-party committee dealing with the restoration of devolution in NI is to be set up, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has confirmed.

The idea was put forward by the Ulster Unionist Party at the reconvened assembly on Monday.

The DUP is concerned that such a committee will be used as the main vehicle for negotiating a future deal.

Mr Hain said: "I think we can find a way around the various concerns put to me by all the parties."

He added: "All the leadership figures ought to be sitting on this committee and putting on the table the way forward."

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "The DUP has consistently refused to talk directly with Sinn Fein.

"But during the old assembly DUP members did take their places alongside republicans on Stormont committees.

"So setting up a special committee on restoring devolution appeals to the government as a potential way of making some dialogue easier."

Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams
Ian Paisley rejected Sinn Fein's nomination to be first minister

On Monday, the DUP's Ian Paisley rejected Sinn Fein's nomination to be first minister.

Despite Mr Paisley declining the first minister's post, it is still possible for members to debate policy matters under the assembly's temporary rules, although laws cannot be made.

On 15 May, Northern Ireland's politicians took their seats in the Stormont assembly for the first time since October 2002.

While there is no immediate prospect of a power-sharing executive being formed, the government hopes recalling the politicians will help to pave the way towards a deal in the autumn, by its deadline of 24 November.

Devolved government was suspended over allegations of a republican spy ring. The court case that followed collapsed.

Direct rule from London was restored in October 2002 and has been in place since.




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