SDLP says no to poll deal with Sinn Fein

SINN FEIN is seeking an electoral pact with the fellow nationalists of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in the impending elections for the Northern Ireland assembly.

At the same time, the party president, Gerry Adams, is urging David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party to begin talks, saying it was the wish of the electorate that the parties which campaigned for a Yes vote in last week's referendum should take part in "inclusive dialogue".

The Sinn Fein initiatives came on a Bank Holiday which saw the first manoeuvres take place in the campaign for seats in the new assembly.

However, its approaches to the SDLP met with initial lukewarm reaction. Asked about a suggested pact, John Hume said: "The objective of this election isn't pacts between two parties on one side of the divide - the objective is a partnership between the representatives of all sections of the community."

SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon also dismissed electoral pacts as things of a partisan past.

He suggested instead the full tactical use of the proportional representation voting system to ensure that the parties behind the No campaign are prevented from getting sizeable numbers of seats, and the chance to destabilise the new assembly.

A single transferable voting system will be used for the poll. Under it voters will get a chance to stake their preference in descending order among six candidates in each constituency.

Mr Mallon said: "We will be asking people to give transfers to pro agreement parties depending on the complexion of the constituency. It could be that we will be asking people to transfer votes to the Ulster Unionists."

Sinn Fein also held out the intriguing possibility of its supporters using one of its six votes for the Ulster Unionists. One of the party's senior leaders, Pat Doherty, stated that "those who voted for change should pursue the logic" of voting for Mr Trimble's party.

The offer is seen as an inducement to the Ulster Unionists to begin talks with Sinn Fein. But Mr Trimble has resisted doing so as long as the IRA does not decommission its arms.

The row over decommissioning continued yesterday when the Canadian General in charge of promoting disarmament among paramilitary groups stated it would not be enough for these groups to simply allow guns to "rust in the ground".

And Northern Ireland minister Paul Murphy stated: "The peace agreement says that decommissioning is an indispensable part of this whole agreement.

However, a senior member of Sinn Fein, Alex Maskey ruled out early moves to hand over weapons. He added that in the long run his party was committed to a "total disarmament and demilitarisation off this whole society".

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, warned that the British and Irish governments would "show no mercy" to anyone continuing to resort to terrorism.

In last night's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Blair wrote: "They will find themselves starved of the support they have had in the past - at home and overseas.

"And I can also guarantee that both ourselves the Irish government will show no mercy to anyone going back to violence. There will be no fudge between democracy and terror."

Mr Blair also paid tribute to those who voted in support of the peace agreement.

He said: "It always easier to say no to change. But fortunately there are political leaders who had the vision to see that the people of Northern Ireland had the opportunity of a different, better future."

The United States President, Bill Clinton, has already insisted paramilitaries would find no friends in America if they went back to the bomb and bullet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent