Belfast Telegraph

Murphy hints at need for new election
Ulster may go back to polls to get the Assembly running

By Andrea Clements
11 December 2004

SECRETARY of State Paul Murphy has said that new elections may be needed to get the Assembly up and running.

He said his first priority will be talking with political parties in an attempt to achieve transparent decommissioning.

"If after six weeks the parties in the Assembly can't come up with a First and Deputy First Minister they will be required to go back to the people for another election.

"It's not something that the people of Northern Ireland particularly want as they have just elected an Assembly but it's an option parties and government can discuss in the months ahead," he said, speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Ian Paisley, speaking in Ballymena where he was given the freedom of the borough last night, said: "I am the only person now who can deliver this deal. My people are not going to be sold out."

Deputy DUP leader Peter Robinson believes that new arrangements agreed for devolution would function "successfully" if the issue of IRA decommissioning is resolved.

He said: "The lack of resolution on the issue of IRA decommissioning should not obscure the fact that the DUP made very significant advances during the recent talks process.

"The Ulster Unionist failures may wish to carp from the sidelines but the record speaks for itself.

"Just over a year ago people were saying that no one would negotiate with the DUP and there could be no renegotiation of the Belfast Agreement.

"Today it is clear that when the IRA come up to the mark on decommissioning there are arrangements in place which will allow devolution to function successfully."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has asked the Secretary of State for more information on the new proposals put forward by the British and Irish Governments.

He asked if any changes had been made to the joint declaration, "especially with regard to normalisation procedures, their extent and the timetable for introduction".

Mr Trimble said he welcomed the IRA statement, "particularly as it largely repeats the draft that the Government have included in the proposals."

But he added that the UUP regarded the request for photographs of IRA decommissioning as "reasonable".

He asked Mr Murphy to clarify his comments that "it has turned out that the IRA had a different view from everyone else".

He asked: "Does 'everyone else' include those republicans to whom he was speaking during the negotiations?"

And SDLP leader Mark Durkan has accused Sinn Fein of conceding to the DUP on the Good Friday Agreement.

He has challenged leader Gerry Adams to a public debate.

He said: "The prospect of IRA decommissioning and the DUP power-sharing is welcome.

"But the fact is that this so-called "comprehensive agreement" gives the DUP a veto over the appointment of nationalist ministers and the decisions of nationalist ministers.

"Instead of worrying about photos humiliating the IRA, Sinn Fein should have been worried about vetoes which will be used by the DUP time and time again to humiliate nationalist ministers and nationalist people."

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