British Direct Ruler Peter Hain is to press ahead with the formation
of an all-party committee at the new shadow assembly to discuss the
return of powers from London to Belfast.
However, confusion lingers over the attitude of the DUP to the
committee after party leader Ian Paisley repeatedly rejected the
The party now claims to have "pulled the teeth" of the plan,
to assurances from Mr Hain that no "negotiations" would take
within the committee.
The watered-down committee will reportedly only identify obstacles to
devolution, which will then be passed on to the traditional
A fresh round of these talks is to take place with the North's
political parties in the coming weeks, it was announced on Thursday.
The move was announced by Peter Hain as he also confirmed the first
meeting of the committee would take place on June 6th and would focus
on preparing for a fresh round of "intensive" negotiations led
Taoiseach and British Prime Minister.
As Ian Paisley continued to insist "there cannot be another set of
negotiations running alongside" the formal peace process, the DUP
denied reports that his deputy Peter Robinson had been overruled on the
One DUP MP said: "The real show was always going to be [the parties]
with the governments. The idea that a negotiation would take place in
this committee was a nonsense."
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has said that his party
will judge Peter Hain's proposal for a committee against the clear
criteria that it can lead to the return of the power-sharing Executive.
"Sinn Fein have made it clear that the only reason we are taking
in the Hain Assembly is to deliver a power-sharing Executive," he
"We will judge Peter Hain's current proposals for a committee against
the clear criteria that it can lead to the return of the power-sharing
"No-one is interested in a powerless talking shop."
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein attacked their SDLP rivals for "falling into
trap of engaging in Wendy House politics" in the shadow assembly.
Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew said that orior to May 15t
there was a strong consensus between Sinn Fein and at least some
members of the SDLP that it was a mistake to engage in the Assembly.
But now they were humiliated by being forced to accept "crumbs off
"This was always the danger," she said. "That the DUP would
suck people into their preferred model of a shadow Assembly possibly
leading to the corporate type Assembly that they have also mooted. Sinn
Fein expended considerable effort earlier this year moving the two
governments away from this position that represents a serious dilution
of the power-sharing Executive core of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The danger for the SDLP is that they are now encouraging the DUP
the mistaken belief that people are prepared to except less than the
Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein will defend the agreement. Our sole
focus is the election of the First and Deputy First Ministers and
power-sharing Executive. This is the only way that we will be able
remove power from British direct rule ministers and undo the damage
being caused by their bad decisions."