15 January 2006

Assembly 'must have full powers'

BBC

The SDLP will not consider any measures short of giving the Northern Ireland Assembly back its full powers, party leader Mark Durkan has said.

Speaking on the Politics Show, Mr Durkan said interim arrangements being proposed by the DUP were unsuitable.

"A two-stage process isn't open. If you start saying we are just going to go for a fallback, and then starting with a fallback that is just holding back.

"Let's test it and see how far parties are willing to go."

He added: "We want the assembly restored. If parties aren't willing to form an inclusive executive, we then have to look at what other options there are short of suspension and direct rule again.

"But parties are only going to get real about how far they are going to go in circumstances where the governments are saying very clearly that there is a definite date for restoration."

Last week, NI Secretary Peter Hain said he wanted to hold talks on restoring devolution in February.

Mr Hain said elections due in May 2007 had to be meaningful.

"We therefore need to make progress urgently. We cannot let things drift," he told the Commons.

"I am therefore asking each of the political parties to agree dates for substantial discussions in early February with the British and Irish Governments to give their views on the way forward to restore the political institutions."

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