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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
DUP consult on SF power-sharing
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson said the party had begun an internal consultation
The DUP has begun its process of internal consultation on whether or not to share power with Sinn Fein.

After meeting the Independent Monitoring Commission in Belfast, DUP leader Ian Paisley again called for the IRA to disband.

His deputy, Peter Robinson, revealed that the party was already consulting its grassroots on the way forward.

"Our party always consults internally and always has in mind the people who know most on the ground," he said.

"They give us feedback. It's a two-way process. We pass information to them and it also comes back from the grassroots organisation.

"Our consultation will take into account what the IMC has to say and the information we have ourselves."

In April, Mr Robinson said that the DUP would start an internal consultation on whether to share power with Sinn Fein when it considered that the IRA had moved from violence to democracy.

However, speaking in Tuesday's assembly debate on law and order, Mr Paisley said that power-sharing required Sinn Fein to sign up to policing in word and deed.

Policing

BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Martina Purdy said that while the DUP was consulting with its grass roots, Sinn Fein was busily consulting on republican attitudes to policing.

During the law and order debate, the SDLP attacked Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain for suggesting Sinn Fein could work with police on the ground even if it was not prepared to sign up to the Policing Board.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood described the government's approach as "flawed" and said Sinn Fein must be encouraged to sign up to the same structures as all the other parties.

The remarks come amid speculation Sinn Fein may agree to cooperate with police on the ground, while refusing to sign up to the Policing Board until there is a deal on power-sharing and devolved policing.

Northern Ireland's parties have been back at Stormont since May, 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.

It has now emerged that Mr Hain is considering firming up the November deadline by announcing that he also intends to formally dissolve the assembly elected in 2003 which is not legally due to expire until next Spring.

Devolution was suspended in October 2002 over allegations of a republican spy ring.

The court case that followed collapsed and one of those charged, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a British agent.


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Mark Devenport reports on the consultation



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