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The BBC's David Eades
"The devolution pause button is off again"
 real 28k

Monday, 29 May, 2000, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
NI ministers prepare for devolution

Ministers will be back around the table on Tuesday
The two men at the head of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government are holding talks ahead of a re-start to devolution.

Ulster Unionist First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party are preparing for the restoration of local power at midnight on Monday.

The British Government moved to revive the suspended political institutions after the UUP voted to re-enter government with republicans on Saturday.

It will be the second time in seven months powers will have been transferred from Westminster to Stormont.

Before the meeting, Mr Mallon said he hoped politicians would, this time, get down to business.

"I hope this time that we'll be able to get on with the business. That the nonsense will be at an end and that we can start doing what we should have done two years ago and that was give people hope.



Seamus Mallon: Getting back to business
"I don't believe that people will tolerate another blockage in the workings of these institutions."

Mr Mallon said he was confident the executive, assembly and associated political institutions would now become firmly established.

He said: "We have a lot of work to do, a lot of that work is going to be done this week.

"We have a remarkable amount of serious thinking to do in terms of how we gear this new dispensation but that will be done and, I hope, without any further interruptions."

Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble are meeting inside the building before sitting down with senior civil servants to receive a briefing on government affairs since the suspension of devolution on 11 February.

It was suspended because of an impasse over paramilitary arms decommissioning.

However, delegates at Saturday's Ulster Unionist Council meeting voted by a margin of 53% to 47% to back Mr Trimble's proposal to test the IRA offer to put its arms beyond use.

But anti-agreement party members have continued to voice their opposition to the restoration of devolution in advance of actual IRA decommissioning.

It is understood that dissident UUP assembly members (MLAs) may join with the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party in an effort to bar Sinn Fein members from taking their seats in the executive.

Cabinet of ten

Under assembly rules, a petition signed by at least 30 members is required for a debate on a motion to exclude republicans.

Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon will head up a cabinet of ten other senior ministers.

These include three Ulster Unionists, three SDLP MLA's and two members of Sinn Fein - one of them Martin McGuinness as Education Minister.

However, the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionists have yet to declare whether their two ministers, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds, will return to their desks at regional development and social development.

Mr Mallon has urged them to resume their positions.

If they fail to resume their posts, the ministries will be offered to the Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party.

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See also:

28 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Vote deepens unionist rifts
28 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein anger over Trimble comments
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Stormont prepares for power
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionists back power-sharing
28 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Church leaders' cautious welcome
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Mixed reaction to devolution vote
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Returning to power
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson hails 'second chance'
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