Government considers DUP's devolution plan

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The Government was last night seriously considering proposals from the Rev Ian Paisley's hardline Democratic Unionist Party for the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland before the IRA disarms.

Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, described the scheme as "very constructive" and said it could form the basis of further discussion in the review of the Good Friday Agreement which began this week. "There are some very interesting ideas. It could mean that devolution could be restored."

However the proposals found little favour with the main Northern Ireland parties and were dismissed outright by Sinn Fein.

Under the DUP scheme power would be vested in the 108-member assembly which would run the various government departments by agreement through votes with a weighted majority of unionists and nationalists.

Power would rest with the assembly but could be transferred to a voluntary coalition of ministers if the nationalist SDLP agreed to go into government with unionists without Sinn Fein.

A mandatory coalition government including Sinn Fein would be formed only if the IRA engaged in acts of completion, including total disarmament.

Mr Paisley said they had been told by all and sundry there was no alternative to the Good Friday Agreement, no Plan B and that the agreement could not be negotiated.