22/05/2006

Paisley rejects Adams' nomination for First Minister post

The newly reconvened Northern Ireland Assembly has today failed to elect a First and Deputy First Minister.

As the election process got under way, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams nominated DUP leader Ian Paisley for the position of First Minister, with Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

During the 14-minute sitting of the Assembly, Gerry Adams said that he wanted to nominate Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as Deputy Minister, however, when asked by Assembly Speaker Eileen Bell if he accepted the nomination, Mr Paisley replied: "Certainly not."

He continued: "We are glad this charade is over.

"We are coming down to the reality of the situation."

"Are we going to have in the government of Northern Ireland those who are terrorists, those that condoned and even planned murders, who robbed banks, who committed criminal acts and who will not support the police?

"The answer of Ulster is no. There is no place in any government in the United Kingdom for those wedded to terrorism."

Speaking after the DUP leader declined the nomination, the Sinn Fein President said that he was not surprised by the result.

He said: "No is better than never, never, never,

"What you saw there was an effort by us to get the formation of an Executive.

"We will return to this with all speed."

Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Sir Reg Empey said that the outcome of the meeting was predictable.

He said: "What happened here today I think lends force to our calls on the Secretary of State (for Northern Ireland Peter Hain) to allow the Assembly to debate and to establish a committee on the restoration of devolution."

However the Sinn Fein President added that such a committee could only be successful with the full backing off all the main political parties.

However, Mr Paisley's response this afternoon appeared to rule out his participation in an Assembly committee, insisting he would not be bluffed by Sir Reg into sitting down at Stormont, discussing devolution with Sinn Fein.

SDLP leader Mark Durkhan said that the afternoon had been a non-starter and a non-event, and added that the parties need to get back to what we have been mandated to do under the Good Friday Agreement.

He continued by playing down the importance of today's events saying that no-one expected progress to be made today.

He said: "I do not think the rest of the world expected us to elect First and Deputy First Ministers.

"The rest of the world's eyes are not upon us.

"In fact their eyes are rolling up to heaven as we continue to stall instead of doing things."

Today's vote came after Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell addressed the Assembly members emphasising the benefits that devolution has brought to Scotland.

Last week, Northern Ireland's politicians returned to Stormont to reconvene their seats in the local assembly for the first time since October 2002.

Although it is unlikely that any progress will be made in the near future, the government hopes that it will lead to a deal being struck by the final deadline on November 24.

(EF/GB)

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