16/01/2006

DUP announce plan to restore 'devolution'

The DUP have outlined proposals for their approach on how to return to devolution in Northern Ireland in a plan that excludes Sinn Fein from the power-sharing Assembly.

The 16-page proposal, entitled 'Facing Reality', is to be presented to Tony Blair next week, in the hope that the Prime Minister can be persuaded to allow the resumption of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

At a press conference in Stormont today, DUP leader Ian Paisley said that there was "no prospect of an executive involving the IRA" in the near future," and it was "up to the IRA" to clear the passage and embrace democracy.

He said: “The DUP has consistently held the view that local decisions should be taken by locally elected representatives. In our view devolution is still the best way forward and we will be striving to see progress made in the year ahead. However in our view, reflective of the unionist community, there is no prospect of an executive including Sinn Fein/IRA for the foreseeable future. In keeping with our manifesto commitments the DUP will not countenance an executive in Northern Ireland that is inclusive of those who are not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

Mr Paisley refused to divulge the exact contents of the dossier, however it is believed that it seeks to get the Assembly involved in passing legislation on local issues.

He added: "The proposals outline a system which provides for further building blocks when the foundations are firmly set and an enabling environment exists."

However, SDLP Leader Mark Durkan has stated that the SDLP will not consider any measures short of giving the Northern Ireland Assembly back its full powers. Mr Durkan said that the interim arrangements being proposed by the DUP were unsuitable.

He said: "A two-stage process isn't open. If you start saying we are just going to go for a fallback, and then starting with a fallback that is just holding back.

"Let's test it and see how far parties are willing to go."

He added: "We want the assembly restored. If parties aren't willing to form an inclusive executive, we then have to look at what other options there are, short of suspension and direct rule again."

He concluded that the parties were only going to "get real" when the government sets a date for restoration.

Speaking today, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey also called for devolved government to be re-instated. He said:"We are being paid here, this place is costing money. The people want answers, they want solutions, they want decisions, and it is our task to provide those. If we can't and if we don't agree, then let's get that out in the open, and at least bring the thing to a head and we get a solution."

(EF/SP)

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