DEVOLUTION FOR ULSTER: THE DIFFICULT DAYS AHEAD THIS WEEK

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The Independent Online
The Northern Ireland Assembly is due to meet today to nominate the 10-strong Executive.

The Assembly will first hear a motion for the reinstatement as Deputy First Minister of Seamus Mallon, the SDLP's deputy leader who resigned last July, when the attempt to select a cross-community Executive failed because of an Ulster Unionist boycott. Anti-Good Friday Agreement Democratic Unionists are expected to table a motion to have Sinn Fein excluded from the Assembly.

Tomorrow, Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will put the necessary measures through Westminster to arrange for the transfer of powers to Stormont.

On Thursday, the Dublin government will remove Articles Two and Three, the Irish Republic's territorial claim over Northern Ireland, from its statute books, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. Legislative powers will be fully devolved from London to Belfast. The IRA is expected to appoint a senior Provisional as a go-between to General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

The 858-strong UUP Council is due to meet again in February, on a date that has yet to be decided, to consider whether enough progress has been made on arms decommissioning.

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