05 February 2006

Hain:'Status quo is unacceptable'

:::u.tv:::

SUNDAY 05/02/2006 12:09:25

Maintaining the status quo in Northern Ireland is unacceptable, Peter Hain warned today, as he called for an end to "political paralysis" in the country.

By: Press Association

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State`s comments came ahead of a new round of talks tomorrow organised by the British and Irish governments to revive devolution.

Mr Hain said 2006 was "a decisive year" and all parties recognised the need to make progress.

"We can`t continue as we have been, in a state of political paralysis with the Assembly now suspended for nearly four years and with Assembly members earning on average £85,000 year in salaries and office and other expenses, to continue not to do their jobs," he said.

"That`s not tenable. It`s costing £9 million to keep over 100 Assembly members carrying on without doing their jobs."

Mr Hain told Sky`s Sunday Live programme: "It`s cost us £78 million since the Assembly was established to keep it idle.

"That can`t continue and everybody accepts that."

He argued there was "no reason" for any political party not to negotiate on the future politics of Northern Ireland.

"Terrorism has been closed down by the IRA. It is still unfortunately in existence with small paramilitary groups on the loyalist side and on the republican side that are dissidents," he added.

"So those groups need to be dealt with but there is absolutely no reason at all for any political party not to turn up tomorrow and meet me in Hillsborough Castle to discuss the way forward.

"And indeed all are turning up."

He continued: "I think there is now a recognition among all the parties that continuing as we are is not acceptable or tenable. They want to be making the decisions that I am making - some of them they don`t agree with.

"Well, my invitation to them is get into the Assembly together and make those decisions yourself."

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