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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 17:52 GMT
Mallon could return to deputy role
Seamus Mallon Seamus Mallon announced his resignation in July

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, who publically resigned in July, could be re-installed within days if Ulster Unionists endorse the Mitchell peace plan.

Deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party Seamus Mallon could be effectively restored to the post, as if he had never resigned.

A motion has been laid down for discussion during a scheduled meeting of the assembly on Monday, recommending that Mr Mallon retain his post.

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He resigned from office after a failed attempt to set up devolved government under the Good Friday Agreement.

He announced the decision after the Ulster Unionists boycotted a meeting of the assembly, which was intended to nominate ministers to a power-sharing executive.

The motion to reinstate Mr Mallon has been laid down by leader of the Alliance Party Sean Neeson.

However, Mr Mallon's possible re-appointment and the election of an assembly executive on Monday, hinges on a crucial meeting of the 860-strong Ulster Unionist ruling council on Saturday.

They will decide whether to endorse the deal on devolution and decommissioning, which emerged from the 10-week review of the Good Friday Agreement.

David Trimble was urged to quit his post
If they back party leader and first minister designate, David Trimble, over the deal, the scene will be set for nominating ministers to the power-sharing executive.

However, the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party has claimed the assembly rules are going to be bent to try to ensure that Mr Mallon resumes his position.

Assembly member Nigel Dodds said: "It reminds me a little bit of the time when Dallas was on TV and after two episodes it was discovered that in fact Bobby Ewing hadn't died at all, that he was in the shower and it was all a dream.

"This is the absurdity, the farce that we're now reduced to in this peace process."

BBC NI political editor Stephen Grimason said: "If there was a vote, more than half the unionists present would not vote for Mr Mallon's return, and that would bring chaos as the rest of the business could not be conducted."

Legal challenge possible

He said there was a possibility that anti-agreement unionists could mount a legal challenge to the move.

"They may also secure the 30 signatures they need to seek the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Executive which could delay the selection of ministers for several hours."

When he quit his post in July, Mr Mallon said his decision had been taken with regret but he was bound to do so to uphold the Good Friday Agreement which had been endorsed in referenda in May of last year.

He also called on Mr Trimble to resign from his position as first minister in order to enter into the agreement review without the trappings of office
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See also:
15 Jul 99 |  Northern Ireland
Mallon resigns as Deputy First Minister
15 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
Peace process in disarray
17 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
Trimble signals intention to stay

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