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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Paisley 'cannot see deadline met'
Ian Paisley pictured outside Downing Street
Ian Paisley said talks in Scotland were a waste of money
DUP leader Ian Paisley has said he cannot see a deal being reached for restoring devolution by the government's 24 November deadline.

He was speaking after meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street.

Mr Paisley also said he had made it clear that any political talks should take place in Northern Ireland rather than at any other location.

St Andrews in Scotland has been selected by the governments as the venue for next month's intensive talks.

Mr Paisley said there were "no deadlines mentioned" during the meeting, but he could not see a deal being reached.

At the weekend, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain warned attempts to restore devolution would probably be put back until 2009 if the deadline is not met, because of general elections in Britain and the Irish Republic in the coming years.

And with Mr Blair due to step down as prime minister in the next 12 months, it could be his last chance to revive the assembly before he leaves office.

We are badly governed, facing taxation without representation in the form of massive rates hikes and water charges, yet the leader of the largest party didn't even get around to mentioning the deadline
Alasdair McDonnell
SDLP deputy leader
Mr Paisley said they could still "do business" but added: "We have to be realistic that Mr Blair has a lot on his plate at the present time."

He said plans for intensive talks in Scotland next month were "a waste of money".

"We should all stay in Northern Ireland and do it there - I put this very forcefully to the prime minister. He said he would take it on board," he said.

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said it was vital that Mr Blair "makes it clear to Ian Paisley that the two governments are committed to standing by the Good Friday Agreement during the next 10-week period".

"The luxury afforded to the DUP for so long in allowing the process to drift must now come to an end," he said.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said Mr Paisley's "flippant dismissal" of the deadline was a "sad let-down" for ordinary people.

"We are badly governed, facing taxation without representation in the form of massive rates hikes and water charges, yet the leader of the largest party didn't even get around to mentioning the deadline to the prime minister today," he said.

Devolution was suspended in October 2002, but Northern Ireland's parties have been back at Stormont since May.

They have been sitting in a so-called "virtual assembly" which can meet and debate - but not pass legislation.

The 108 MLAs have been warned that if the deadline is not met, their salaries and benefits will stop and the assembly will be put in mothballs.

What happens after that remains unclear, other than Dublin and London say they remain committed to implementing the rest of the Good Friday Agreement, with a step-change in north-south co-operation.




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