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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Hain appoints committee chairmen
Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy (left) and the DUP's Jim Wells
Francie Molloy (left) and Jim Wells are the deputy speakers
The two Stormont deputy speakers have been appointed by the NI secretary to chair a key committee preparing the way for the return of devolution.

The parties had been deadlocked over who should chair the Preparation for Government Committee.

Peter Hain appointed the DUP's Jim Wells and Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy to chair meetings as impartial officers.

Mr Molloy chaired discussions on Monday when the committee met at Stormont. It is due to meet again on Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Hain said that he "would have preferred not to have had to issue a direction on this procedural matter".

"The deadlock must not be allowed to stand in the way of the important work that needs to be done," he added.

Mr Hain said all the parties had "accepted that deadlock must not be allowed to stand in the way of the important work that needs to be done to prepare for the return of locally accountable government."

"The committee's initial task is to identify the issues that need to be addressed to prepare for government and to refer appropriate topics that need to be publicly aired and debated in the assembly as part of the preparation process," he said.

The DUP had taken most of the blame from the other parties for the deadlock.

There is no immediate prospect of a power-sharing executive being formed, but the government had hoped that recalling the politicians would help to pave the way towards a deal by its 24 November deadline.

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

A bid to elect a first minister and deputy first minister failed to gain the necessary cross-party support.

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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