05/11/2001

High Court dismisses DUP's case against NI Secretary of State

A High Court judge has dismissed the DUP's legal action taken against the Secretary of State’s decision not to call fresh elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The case brought by the deputy leader of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson was heard by Mr Justice Kerr in the High Court on Monday November 5.

The DUP’s legal challenge was mounted because they deemed last Friday’s unsuccessful attempt to re-elect David Trimble as head of Assembly’s Executive and Mark Durkan as deputy first minister ahead of the Saturday deadline and the subsequent decision by Dr Reid not to call fresh elections or call a suspension of the Assembly to be unlawful.

However, lawyers acting on behalf of Dr Reid said that the Secretary of State enjoyed a degree of latitude over the time he could take before proposing a date for elections.

The judge said it was entirely unsurprising that the Secretary of State wished for a period of reflection before setting a date.

Speaking after the ruling on Monday November 5, Secretary of State John Reid said: “I am pleased but not surprised that the court has rejected the DUP’s legal challenge today. I am confident that I have acted at all times within the law.”

Speaking at Stormont, Mr Trimble said: “The DUP are there playing games, pulling stunts, engaging in personal abuse rather than trying to improve the situation in this society.”

However, DUP leader Ian Paisley said: “In the last 24 hours the Secretary of State has performed a seismic U-turn on his obligation to propose a date for an election today he conceded that he is under an obligation to propose a date for elections and will consult the parties and then set a date. Now that the Secretary of State has accepted his obligations it is time for him to set a date for an early election and let the people decide.”

The court’s decision removes any doubt that a vote can now go ahead on Tuesday for a first and deputy first minister. (AMcE)

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