Paisley's veto kills hopes of restored devolution

Henry McDonald
Sunday May 9, 2004
The Observer

Ian Paisley buried any chance yesterday of devolution being restored to Northern Ireland before next year's expected UK general election.

The Democratic Unionist Party leader warned that he would not enter into any government until the IRA had disbanded and the dual-premiership system of a unionist First Minister and a nationalist Deputy First Minister was scrapped.

Paisley's remarks were in contrast to recent speculation that there was a chance of a new deal to bring back power-sharing government by October.

Speaking at the DUP's annual conference in Belfast, Paisley said a single prime-ministerial system should be put back in place at Stormont - a position that neither Sinn Fein nor the SDLP would support.

He said the DUP would not consider any 'two-stage position', which would have allowed his party to enter into direct talks on the basis of an end to IRA activity and a single act of decommissioning.

Paisley also criticised the Irish government's secret deal with Sinn Fein to free the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe if last year's deal at Hillsborough had secured an end to paramilitarism and restored power-sharing. He declined to condemn sectarian and racist protests, even though the DUP conference debated a motion condemning racism and hate crime.

The DUP leader's hard-line position was endorsed by his deputy, Peter Robinson, who earlier told DUP delegates that Sinn Fein and the IRA 'must give up terrorism or be left behind'.

Robinson, whom both the British and Irish governments regard as a potential dealmaker with republicans, said the DUP wanted devolution, but not at any price.

Meanwhile The Observer has learnt that it was republicans who leaked the story to the BBC about the clandestine deal that would have seen Jerry McCabe's killers released.

Senior officers in the Garda confirmed that Sinn Fein allowed the story to leak out in order to embarrass Justice Minister Michael McDowell. Republicans have been stung by McDowell's trenchant criticism of Sinn Fein and its continued links to the IRA. McDowell has accused Sinn Fein of 'vomit-making hypocrisy' over the party's campaign against political corruption.

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