Chief Political Correspondent
Government ministers last night geared up for fresh contacts with Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, by naming him in draft legislation for the elections on 30 May in Northern Ireland.
Ministers have refused to speak directly to Mr Adams and other members of the Sinn Fein leadership since the resumption of IRA violence with the Canary Wharf bombing in February.
But a consultation document issued yesterday by the Northern Ireland Office said the legislation will name Mr Adams, the Sinn Fein president, as the person to be designated to act on behalf of Sinn Fein in contacts with the Government in the run-up to the elections and the negotiations on 10 June.
The draft legislation makes it clear that Mr Adams will be responsible for giving lists of his party's candidates to the chief electoral officer and deal with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, in nominating the negotiating teams.
Sinn Fein is expected to take part in the elections, but will boycott the 110-seat forum from which the negotiating teams are to be appointed and which will have a debating role.
The nationalist SDLP, led by John Hume, is expected to follow a similar approach.
The legislation, to be rushed through Parliament after the Easter recess, will name 15 parties who will be allowed to take part in the elections, and their representatives.
It also shows that Northern Ireland Conservative Party members have won their battle to fight the elections against the Unionists and the other parties.
The Government had tried to persuade them that their interests would be represented by Conservative Northern Ireland ministers.
But the draft document shows that the Government has come to a compromise: they will be allowed to stand, but their representative to nominate names for the elections and negotiations will be Brian Mawhinney, the Conservative Party chairman who has previously served as Northern Ireland security minister.
Under the plans announced by John Major, voters will register a single vote; five seats in each of the 18 constituencies will be allocated from party lists of candidates; in addition, all the votes will be aggregated and the 10 most successful parties will have two seats each from the lists.
In addition to the four main democratic parties in Northern Ireland taking part in the lection - the UUP, the DUP, SDLP and the Alliance Party - the small parties (and their representatives) allowed to stand include the Progressive Unionist Party, (Alderman Hugh Smyth); the Ulster Democratic Party, (Gary McMichael); the Workers Party, (Tom French); Democratic Left (Paddy Joe McLean); Green Party, (Juda Stephens); Labour Co-ordinating Committee, (Uel Adair); Natural Law Party; (James Anderson); and Ulster Independence, (Hugh Ross).Reuse content