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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
Assembly failure 'will cost DUP'
Stormont
Failure to set up devolved government could cost the DUP
Failure to agree a return to devolution in November would cost the DUP more than 1.5m, a Northern Ireland Office document obtained by the BBC has said.

The document said the party would lose money used to fund the office costs of DUP assembly members.

It also claims the party's policy and press operations would be severely affected.

DUP leader Ian Paisley, however, accused the government of "blackmail" and said the tactic would not work.

The BBC has seen a section of the confidential document which deals with the cost to the DUP of shutting down Stormont.

It states that, whilst the party will still have income through Westminster and Europe, its policy and press machinery is likely to be severely affected by the loss of its assembly income which ran to 215,000 last year.

The NIO document also states that cutting the office costs allowances of DUP assembly members would account for another 1.5m.

Advice centres

It says that consequently the DUP's network of advice centres would be vulnerable.

The document predicts that the length of time the party keeps such centres afloat may be a useful indicator of whether it still wants to do a deal after the November devolution deadline.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport said: "The DUP has a top team that will be virtually immune from change.

"Their nine MPs will be buffered from the pay cut, which will be less for them anyway because their assembly salary is already reduced (to 10,600).

"While the party will still have income through Westminster and Europe, its policy and press machinery at headquarters and the assembly is likely to be severely affected by the loss of assembly income which ran to 215,000 last year.

"The advice centre network, of which the party is very proud will be vulnerable, but much will depend on the potential for a return.

'Indicator'

"The party isn't going to drown itself in debt just to keep a public presence, but it is unlikely to shut up shop immediately if there is serious potential for a deal.

"Its attitude to the advice centre network might actually be a useful indicator of mood post-November."

Ian Paisley, however, said it was "absolutely laughable"to suggest that his party would allow the loss of office allowances and wages to influence its judgement "on whether Republicans have met the democratic test for government".

"Even if we were down and out and had no money whatsoever, we would not be selling the country short for the sake of a pound," he said.

"Peter Hain has demonstrated his filthy backmailing tactics and he will find we will never bow the knee to money and be slaves to the British government."

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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