Northern Ireland Assembly restored

Devolution was restored to Northern Ireland at midnight last night, after a 24-hour suspension, giving republicans and Unionists six more weeks to negotiate on decommissioning and other issues.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland signed the order restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly after talks with Brian Cowen, the Irish foreign minister, at Hillsborough in County Down.

The British government moved with all speed to make the technical suspension as short as possible, particularly in the light of republican criticism that it was giving in to demands from the Ulster Unionist party. The executive is still without a First Minister, following Unionist leader David Trimble's resignation.

Meanwhile families of some of the 29 people killed in the Real IRA bombing of Omagh in 1998 have started a civil action against five men with alleged links to the organisation.

Civil writs seeking compensation have been issued at the Northern Ireland High Court in Belfast. Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was among those killed, said: "We had no choice but to take this action. Our families are not capable of fighting for themselves, but they deserve justice and it's our responsibility to make sure it's delivered."

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