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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Devolution talks 'better in NI'
Stormont
The committee has been meeting over the summer
The DUP have said they would prefer any intensive talks aimed at restoring devolution to be held at Stormont.

It is understood the British and Irish prime ministers are considering hosting talks in Scotland in October.

One official said it was hoped a positive report from the Independent Monitoring Commission could provide a springboard for several days of talks.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said "big house" talks would be a waste of money. Sinn Fein said the venue was "minor".

It is understood the talks are scheduled for the second week of October.

Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said the only remaining issue to be resolved was the DUP's "anti-agreement stance".

Sir Reg said Castle Buildings, Stormont and Hillsbrough Castle have been places where "meaningful progress has been made in the past".

He added: "The cost of hiring the venue, the associated security, flying over, accommodating and feeding a large number of assembly members and staff is astronomical and a chronic waste of public expenditure.

"The big house spectacular summit may have worked in the past, in terms of the optics and trying to generate a pressure cooker environment, but in reality they achieved little.

"Can anyone in Northern Ireland name one big house summit where a breakthrough was made? The answer is no. The contrary is true."

Direct rule

DUP sources told the BBC that the party has not yet been officially approached but would prefer more work is concentrated at the assembly.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said: "It's hard to think what any further fancy castle talks will achieve, except a hole in the public purse.

"Getting the process moving again is hardly rocket science. It should not take trips to far off places to figure it out. All that parties have to do is face up to their responsibilities.

"The DUP needs to accept power-sharing and the Agreement. Sinn Fein needs to accept policing and a lawful society.

"If these parties are serious about getting a deal, they will do this. If they aren't, they won't. It's as simple as that."

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 hoped recalling the politicians would 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 and one of those involved, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a British agent.

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

The Preparation for Government Committee was set up to identify obstacles to the return of devolution. It has been meeting over the summer months.


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