BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | DUP reveals Assembly plans

DUP reveals Assembly plans

The Democratic Unionist Party has unveiled its blueprint containing proposals for the Stormont Assembly.

The party said the assembly could get up and running in the short term, before the outstanding questions of IRA arms and paramilitary activity are resolved.

However, Ian Paisley's party repeated its insistence that there could be no place for republicans in a power-sharing executive until the IRA went out of business.

The DUP unveiled its proposals in Belfast on Friday, a day after presenting them to Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street.

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence-gathering in the Stormont government.

Earlier this week, parties elected to the assembly last November began a review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement at Stormont.

The DUP proposed a Corporate Assembly in order to kick-start the democratic process.

This plan - similar to the way the Welsh Assembly ran early on - would involve all 108 assembly members becoming involved in running the Northern Ireland government.

The party said decisions could be made either on the floor of the assembly or by committee.

It said that non-controversial issues could even be decided by a simple majority, but other contentious matters would have to win the backing of a majority of both unionists and nationalists - or 70% of the assembly as a whole.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds of the DUP said the initiative showed that his party had a positive agenda to offer.

"The Democratic Unionist Party is dedicated to trying to find a way forward by the restoration of devolved government and finding a system of devolution that will actually work," he said.

"The DUP is not the stumbling block to getting devolved government going in Northern Ireland,.

"The fault clearly lies with those who continue to be wedded to violence whilst playing the pretence of democracy."

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said nationalists were likely to regard the plans as a "second-rate alternative to the Good Friday Agreement".

He said they would be "especially suspicious of anything which they think might smack of majority rule".

He said government sources had told him the proposals were positive and significant, but had added that the reaction of the other parties would be crucial.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein say the Agreement cannot be renegotiated and that the review should be short.

The Ulster Unionists say it should deal with the problem which led to suspension in the first place - paramilitary violence - while the DUP want a wholesale renegotiation.

When the 1998 Agreement was signed it contained a commitment that a conference should be held four years later to review and report on its operation.

But Stormont has been suspended four times and replaced with direct rule for the past 14 months.

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