'British govt considering scrutiny role for Assembly'

01/02/2005 - 16:12:12

The British government could consider giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a role which just falls short of full blown devolution, a former Stormont minister suggested today.

After a meeting in London with Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson said the British government was considering interim measures for the Assembly.

However the East Belfast MP also called for a series of sanctions to be applied against Sinn Féin, including freezing it out of a restored power sharing executive, following police claims that the IRA carried out the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid in December.

“We told the Secretary of State that there is massive disillusionment in the unionist community that after all this time, when both governments acknowledge the IRA carried out the robbery and Sinn Féin was aware of it, no measures against that party have come forward,” the former Stormont Regional Development Minister said.

“The DUP is also adamant that genuine democrats should not be penalised for what others have done.

“My clear impression from today’s meeting is that the (British) government is looking at interim measures which fall short of devolving powers.

“That could mean some role where the Assembly scrutinise and advise.

“You could have a legislative Assembly, where in the absence of the executive and in the absence of a partner, namely the SDLP, to exclude Sinn Féin, Northern Ireland Office ministers would bring legislation to the Assembly for approval and there would be some form of scrutiny.

“Assembly members would also be able to initiate legislation on their own.”

Mr Robinson was commenting as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern received a Downing Street briefing from senior police from both sides of the border.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde and the commissioner of the Irish Republic’s police force Noel Conroy were expected to take both leaders through the intelligence which informed their assessment that the IRA carried out the heist on the Northern Bank’s Belfast headquarters.

Mr Blair was also due to meet nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan afterwards.

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