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Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon
"This is for real"
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The BBC's David Eades
"Devolved powers are returning to Stormont"
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First Minister David Trimble
"There is a general expectation that devolution will last"
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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
NI ministers retake posts
Stormont Executive
Executive is due to meet on Thursday
Eight of Northern Ireland's reinstated departmental ministers have returned to their offices, as the DUP remains undecided on whether to take up its posts.

First and Deputy First Ministers, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and Social Democratic and Labour Party deputy leader Seamus Mallon retook their posts as devolution was restored at midnight.

However, the former ministers of Ian Paisley's anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party have refused to say yet whether they will take up their seats in the restored executive.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson will remain minister for regional development and Nigel Dodds the social development minister, unless they decide to resign.

Refusing to be drawn on the subject, Mr Robinson said that his party's objective was still to wreck the agreement.

Peter Robinson has not said if he will take his seat
Peter Robinson has not said if he will take his seat
"We believe resolutely that the Belfast Agreement will destroy the Union.

"Whatever we do it will be with that end in mind - to do everything possible to bring down the Belfast Agreement and the republican agenda," he said.

When they took their posts in the former executive, the DUP ministers refused to take part in its meetings, because they would not sit down with Sinn Fein.

Alliance could get ministry

Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon called on the DUP to join in the collective responsibility of the executive or stand down.

If the DUP members reject the jobs, they could go instead to another Ulster Unionist and a member of the Alliance Party. The UUP would have first choice of ministry.

Alliance leader Sean Neeson
Alliance leader Neeson would prefer DUP to take their seats
However, Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson, urged the two DUP ministers to return to Stormont because he said they had crucial roles to play within the government.

"People in Northern Ireland want to see the assembly addressing the major problems facing Northern Ireland and from Peter Robinson's perspective, I think one of the big questions which he is going to have to address is the crisis on the railways," he said.

'Interests of farming community'

Meanwhile, agriculture minister Brid Rodgers, of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said she believed the members of her committee could get over their political differences and concentrate on their tasks.

Agriculture minister Brid Rodgers, SDLP
Brid Rodgers: "Agriculture committee all have rural community at heart"
"I know that all the people on that committee and the chair, Doctor Paisley, have the interests of the farming community and the rural communities and at heart," she said.

"Many of them are practitioners themselves and the vice-chairman is himself a farmer.

"We won't always agree, but I will accept constructive criticism and I'm sure I'll get plenty of that," she said.

Returning to Department of Education headquarters at Rathgael House in Bangor, County Down, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said it was "great to be back".

Martin McGuinness: Back in the hot seat at Education
Martin McGuinness: Back in the hot seat at Education
Loyalists had tied Union and paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force flags to lampposts outside the offices.

However, Mr McGuinness was in a positive mood.

"I think all of us know the future development of the peace process is a huge challenge for everyone," he said.

"Under the power-sharing arrangements, the Department of Education has a very important role to play and I intend to lead from the front."

However, he added that Sinn Fein was still concerned over the policing issue.

He said his party had made it clear to the government that the Police (NI) Bill unacceptably diluted the Patten proposals for police reform "which are the bottomg line".

Earlier, Sinn Fein assemblyman Alex Maskey said his party would be watching whether the government honoured its commitments on demilitarisation.

'No-one owes us a living'

Speaking on Radio Ulster, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon appealed to the parties to stop "scratching the sores" of division - policing, flag flying and decommissioning - and focus on the work ahead.

Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey is briefed by the trade and investment staff
Reg Empey is briefed by trade and investment staff
Mr Trimble added that the four-month suspension period when only two Northern Ireland Office junior ministers had been "keeping an eye on things" had left many decisions untaken.

"It has been quite a surprise for me to see in papers that came to me yesterday, memoranda that were written in January for submission to the executive, and were still sitting there," he said.

His Ulster Unionist colleague Sir Reg Empey, who has retaken the enterprise, trade and investment brief, also said it was time to get on with important work.

"Nobody owes Northern Ireland a living and we have to get out there and prove to the world that we are a stable, growing economy, where we have the chance to exploit the new opportunities," he said.

Ulster Unionist environment minister Sam Foster welcomed the return of devolution, saying it was essential that there was accountable democracy.

The last power-sharing executive lasted only 72 days.

The pro-agreement ministers seem determined to ensure that this time, devolution will be successful.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionism's dissenting voices
28 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Vote deepens unionist rifts
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Stormont prepares for power
27 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionists back power-sharing
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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