ELECTIONS SHOULD GO AHEAD - BLAIR
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he accepts that
elections in the North of Ireland should go ahead.
"We are considering now the time that that should be," Tony
Blair told the British parliament today, as speculation
continued over the possible election date.
With intense negotiations continuing following a summit in
London on Monday, Sinn Fein is trying to secure a November
election to the Belfast Assembly,
"But we have not got too focused on the dates," the party's
former Nayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, said. "We expect there
to be an election and we would hope to secure that in
November. It would not be an attractive proposition for us to
go into an election beyond November and we are working to get
the election soon."
Voters should have gone to the polls in May, but the election
was cancelled by Britain, at the behest of the Ulster
Unionist Party. British ministers resumed direct control of
the North last October after the UUP threatened to collapse
the Assembly in response to spurious accusations of an IRA
spyring at Stormont.
Talks at Downing Street on Monday - attended by Sinn Fein
president Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
ended in deadlock but with all sides expressing some degreee
Before leaving Downing Street, Mr Trimble said he wanted an
election as soon as the Assembly could be restored. And an
upbeat Mr Adams told reporters: "We're taking it that the
election is going ahead anyway."
However, following the general unravelling of the talks
process at a similar point earlier this year, and with serious
doubts remaining over the UUPs determination to reach a
conclusion, there were still concerns that the British PM
could postpone the election once again.
Tony Blair, meanwhile, has accused hardline unionists opposed
to the Good Friday Agreement of "deeply misleading" people by
raising the prospect of an alternative peace deal.
"I dont know what that agreement is but I do not see you
negotiating.. a better agreement," he told Nigel Dodds of the
Later, there was a dispute as the Conservative Party and the
DUP insisted that current legislation dictated that the
Assembly elections must take place by November 15.
However, this was contradicted by Ulster Unionist leader David
Trimble, who said that under the existing legislation, the
British government has the power to call elections until 15th
November, but there was no requirement for the election itself
to be held before November 15.
The confusion reflects increasing uncertainty in political
circles as efforts continue to put together a deal of
historical importance to rank with the signing of the 1998
Good Friday Agreement.
This week saw the first anniversary of the collapse the
North's political institutions in October 2002, and a positive
outcome to the current talks are crucially important if
confidence in the viability of the Good Friday Agreement is to