Stormont must be restored - Adams tells party

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was expected today to lead calls for the restoration of political institutions in Stormont at his party's annual conference in Dublin.

The West Belfast MP was due to address his party faithful at its first annual conference of the 21st Century.

Mr Adams was also expected to lead criticism of Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson, for suspending the Northern Ireland Assembly, power-sharing executive and cross-border institutions in February amid concerns over IRA decommissioning.

The Sinn Fein leader, who will attend a funeral of his uncle in Belfast before heading to Dublin for the annual conference, was also expected to face calls from branches of the party to reject any proposal to enter a coalition government in the Irish Republic in the event of it holding the balance of power in the Irish parliament.

Senior Sinn Fein figures, Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun, were also due to address the two-day conference and elections will also take place to the party's ruling executive.

Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson, was due to face calls at another party conference in Northern Ireland today to produce an initiative to get the province out of its current political stalemate.

Mr Mandelson was expected to hear at the cross-community Alliance Party's annual conference in Carrick Fergus, which he will also address, calls for the British and Irish governments to lead efforts to resuscitate the political process.

Later, in the opening speech, Mr McLaughlin called on Mr Trimble to end the "war of words" between unionists and nationalists.

"It is time to commence the 'Battle of Ideals' within the agreed political structures and all-Ireland bodies," he said.

"If David Trimble gives leadership to progressive Unionism, they will respond by demonstrating increased support for him.

"Republicans and nationalists will also respond with good faith and renewed confidence that conflict resolution and peaceful political development will flow naturally from the clear demonstration that politics works."

Northern Ireland's short-lived Executive had shown that unionists, nationalists and republicans could work together, he said.

He also paid tribute to the hard work of all Assembly members, including those from the Democratic Unionist Party.