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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert