21 January 2006

DUP to reveal talks blueprint

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
21 January 2006

DUP leader Ian Paisley is to table his party's devolution blueprint with Tony Blair next week, it was confirmed last night.

A DUP delegation is due to meet Mr Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday afternoon to outline its proposals which fall short of a fully-fledged Executive and have already been rebuffed by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

Under the plan it is understood Assembly members would be allowed to scrutinise decisions by Direct Rule Ministers and have some role in relation to Northern Ireland legislation.

Mr Paisley said his party's paper, entitled 'Facing Reality ... The Best way Forward' is a realistic way of ensuring "the foundation of good government".

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leaders were due to meet in Dublin today to debate their strategy to attempt to ensure "substantive progress" over the next few months.

Joined by a number of activists, the party's executive (ard chomhairle) was also involved in involved in electoral preparations, both north and south, and a national recruitment campaign.

It has also emerged Ulster Unionists have submitted their own blueprint urging Mr Blair to set a date for recall of the Assembly in the next six months - and amend legislation so members can vote on structures short of full devolution.

Their envisaged interim arrangements at Stormont, which would then be collapsed for the next Assembly election in May next year, include an Assembly with legislative functions - dealing with Northern Ireland Bills, for example - rather than becoming another "talking shop".

In what it is calling "modular devolution", the party argues the Government is going to have to make a judgment call on whether a return of the Stormont Executive is likely.

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