31 January 2006

DUP outlines plans for assembly

BBC


The DUP has published its devolution proposals

The DUP has published details of its proposals to restore the NI assembly.

The Facing Reality document rules out executive power-sharing with Sinn Fein in the foreseeable future and was given to the prime minister last week.

The DUP does not want an immediate return to devolution in which local politicians take up ministerial posts in an executive.

It wants the assembly and committees back in a form of rolling devolution initially based on an EU model.

In its 16-page document, the DUP suggests reversing suspension - but only in part.

It said its two-step approach to devolution was a "take it or leave it" option.

The DUP said a return to executive power-sharing must have cross-community support.

In the meantime, a restored assembly could involve direct rule ministers taking part in a council or college of ministers and making decisions alongside the assembly.

Legislation

Legislation on devolved matters would require both the approval of the ministers and the assembly before going to Westminster.

The assembly might also be invited to agree the budget.

In time, the DUP suggests, the assembly could be given powers to legislate.

The committees could be given a role in shadowing departments with the direct rule minister occasionally attending committee meetings.

The party said the best model could be fleshed out in talks.

Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Doherty accused the DUP of trying to remove power-sharing from the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Good Friday Agreement is an international treaty passed overwhelmingly by the Irish people in referendum," the West Tyrone MP said.

"The two governments have an obligation to press ahead with its full implementation in the time ahead. The DUP cannot be allowed to veto this process."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the DUP "had no right to write off the Good Friday Agreement".

"The DUP's proposals are about setting aside executive devolution," he said.

"But it is at the heart of the Agreement and the SDLP will never accept its dilution."

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