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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Parties to take part in committee
Stormont
The Stormont committee is to help prepare a return to devolution
Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP and Alliance have said they will join a new Stormont committee in charge of preparing a return to devolved government.

The 14-strong Preparation for Government Committee is to hold its first meeting next week.

NI Secretary Peter Hain has invited the four main parties to each send three representatives, while the Alliance has been given two places.

The parties are to let the government know whether they are to join.

The first meeting is pencilled in for next Tuesday.

It will be chaired by Northern Ireland Assembly speaker Eileen Bell.

Sinn Fein will participate in this committee with the intention of urgently completing this work
Martin McGuinness
Sinn Fein

BBC Northern Ireland's political editor Mark Devenport said, at this stage, it seemed that no party would boycott the committee.

However, the DUP has insisted that the committee should not be a negotiating body, whilst the SDLP wants it to do precisely that.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness confirmed his party would take part in the committee.

"Real work needs to be done to prepare for the restoration of the political institutions," he said.

"Sinn Fein will participate in this committee with the intention of urgently completing this work."

'Reservations'

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said he had written to Mr Hain to say his party was willing to participate in the committee.

"The SDLP wants to see the restoration of the Good Friday Agreement's institutions and are therefore willing to participate on a committee with this purpose.

"We would also be willing to explore whether such a committee might help with the important task of preparing for government generally."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said his party would "nominate a senior delegation to take their places on this committee".

"We have long campaigned for a serious attempt at resolving outstanding issues."

He added: "The difficulties lie not between individual parties and government, but between the parties themselves, otherwise our problems would have been resolved many years ago."

Peter Hain
Peter Hain invited the main parties to send three representatives

Alliance Party leader David Ford said he had reservations about the committee, but would join.

"People are not interested in a quick fix to get parties around the executive table if that merely means more 'revolving-door' government," he said.

"This time we have to deal with all the problems to ensure that when devolved government is restored, it is stable and viable in the longer term."

No debates have been scheduled for the assembly on Tuesday.

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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