21/10/2003

NI elections to take place in November

New assembly elections for Northern Ireland are set to take place on November 26, the Government confirmed today.

The announcement came following intensive negotiations between Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams as well as both the British and the Irish governments.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Mr Adams said the IRA wanted to see all elements of the Good Friday Agreement implemented and that Sinn Fein wanted to see "the guns taken out of Irish politics".

"We are totally committed to building the peace process," he said.

Party colleague, Alex Maskey also welcomed the move, he added: "We will now proceed into an election campaign, and it is my belief that the electorate will seize the opportunity of this new dynamic which can see the peace process move forward and the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement implemented."

David Trimble is expected to outline his party's initial response to the announcement later today. However he faces stern criticism from UUP hardliners such as Jeffrey Donaldson who has already claimed that Mr Trimble had "watered down" party demands on decommissioning, disbandment and the transfer of policing and justice to secure a deal.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds also welcomed today's announcement but said elections should never have been postponed in the first place.

Northern Ireland's power sharing executive was suspended in October 2002 following accusations of an IRA spy ring within the corridors of Stormont.

Subsequent attempts to restart assembly elections were twice postponed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who blamed the IRA for a lack of clarity over their position.

(MB)

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