Unionists seek Ulster assembly by October

THE ULSTER PEACE PROCESS: The main loyalist parties publish their proposals. Colin Brown reports
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The Independent Online
The Government should call elections by mid-October to an interim Ulster Assembly, the Ulster Unionist Party said yesterday in its "framework" document on the future of Northern Ireland.

In the meantime, the UUP called for cross-party talks with a deadline of six months to discuss contacts between the North and South of Ireland and London-Dublin relationships. "It would accommodate dialogue at every level required and should culminate in the development by the two governments, of a document which would contain substantive agreements reached by the parties," it said.

The UUP said the framework document drawn up by the Irish and British Governments should be shelved because it "prejudiced the negotiation position of the Ulster Unionists even before they reached the table".

The UUP blueprint, A Practical Approach to Problem-Solving in Northern Ireland, presented atWestminster by James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists, condemns the Government for asking "Do the Unionists not want peace?"

It says: "Ulster Unionists will not allow themselves to be subjected to this type of blatant humiliation and innuendo or to be intimidated into working to a strictly Nationalist agenda just because IRA/Sinn Fein are able to exercise a veto on democracy through the barrel of a gun."

The assembly would be established on a "responsibility sharing" basis. Membership, chairs and vice-chairs would be allocated pro-rata with the number of seats won by each party. Elections would be by a list system of proportional representation. The document said it should be possible to arrange that three representatives per Westminster constituency would be elected directly and the equivalent of two per constituency would be appointed pro-rata from party lists.

During the transitional period from direct rule to government by the assembly, ministers would lead for the first year and assembly chairmen would take over control in the second year.

At the end of the two-year transition period, the entire community would be asked to endorse the process with a referendum. In the event of a yes vote, the interim assembly could continue for another two years before further elections.

The UUP called for the two governments' plans to be replaced by a preliminary version, called framework one, based on three criteria: a concise definition of the problems which were identified at the 1992 talks; a grouping of those problems in categories for resolution; and a detailed formula for dealing with each group of problems."Ultimately, it would be better to ask people to vote on tangible results which they can measure, rather than on complicated ideas which they may fail to fully understand or simply distrust," it says.

The five-page Unionist document says it is too soon to consider a referendum. Instead, it says the agreement reached on the assembly should be put to the test by mid-October.

"The benefit of this approach would be that it could provide the basis for a practical out-working of what had been agreed. It would not ignore but would set aside for a limited period, some of the more complex contentious issues which are incapable of resolution until a greater degree of trust can be established among the various political elements."

t The Democratic Unionist Party, led by Ian Paisley, has published its alternative to the Anglo-Irish framework document proposing the election of a Northern Ireland convention to discuss North-South issues with Dublin.

The DUP Formula for Political Progress proposes that the three strands - internal Northern Ireland proposals, Dublin-London relationships, and North-South contacts - should be discussed by the convention. It would empowered to consult with the British Government on all three strands, but it would only consult with the Irish Government on strands two and three, excluding Irish involvement in internal Ulster issues.