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May 16, 2006

Partys Debate But Without Sinn Fein

Partys Debate But Without Sinn Fein

05/16/06 10:12 EST

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has ruled out his party's
participation in the first debate held by the new Northern
Ireland Assembly.

The Sinn Fein president said today`s debate amounted to
little more than a talking shop.

As it was not about the formation of a power-sharing
executive, the West Belfast MP said: "Today`s session is not
about this because of the Democratic Unionist Party`s
refusal at this time to accept their responsibilities. Sinn
Fein will not be in the chamber today."

Mr Adams indicated last week that the Assembly was an
inferior model to the one which operated during the last
time there was devolution.

He again dubbed the new Assembly the "Peter Hain Assembly"

Economic matters were discussed for the second day of the
reconvened Assembly.

Although Sinn Fein boycotted the debate, senior party
members attended a presentation by the Northern Ireland
Business Alliance.

The assembly was also due to debate a motion on the economy
tabled by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

It suggests that the business committee establishes a
working group to give advice once the executive is restored.

The Northern Ireland Business Alliance includes
representatives from organisations such as the Institute of
Directors and the Confederation of British Industry.

Business Alliance spokesman David Dobbin said its central
message was that 140,000 new jobs needed to be created over
the next 10 years.

"We have the lowest level of economic activity in the UK. We
need to bring more people into work and we need to create
better quality jobs so that people feel that the move into
work from benefits is a worthy move," he said.

Sinn Fein's boycott was on the grounds that the debate did
not fit in with the party's strategy of only taking part in
business that led to restored devolution.

Gerry Adams thanked the Business Alliance and Federation of
Small Businesses for meeting assembly members.

"I thought it was a very useful exchange, but the reality
is, no matter the engagement with the Business Alliance, we
have no executive," he said.

SDLP assembly members were the only nationalists in attendance.

Alasdair McDonnell, the party's deputy leader, said Sinn
Fein's decision to boycott the meeting was entirely a matter
for that party.

"The economy is one of the most important components of our
political process here and we believe we should leave no
stone unturned in ensuring that the economy is debated and
discussed so we can get the best outcome," the assembly
member for South Belfast said.

On Monday, Northern Ireland's politicians took their seats
in the Stormont assembly for the first time since October 2002.

There is no immediate prospect of a power-sharing executive
being formed.

However, the British government hopes recalling the
politicians will help to pave the way towards a deal in the
fall, by its deadline of 24 November.

Devolved government was suspended over allegations of a
republican spy ring. The court case that followed collapsed
following the revelation that the man at the center of the
alleged republican spy-ring was, in fact, a British
Intelligence agent.

Direct rule from London was restored in October 2002 and has
been in place since.

Under the temporary rules, policy matters such as the
economy can be debated, but laws cannot be made.

Unionists are in favor of discussing such issues, but Sinn
Fein believes this would be pointless since no legislation
can be enacted without the Executive in place.

The SDLP will take part in such debates on a trial basis, to
test whether the British government will "treat the
assembly's votes seriously".

The vote on forming a power-sharing government will not take
place until next week.

No-one expects that vote to go through, but under the new
temporary rules of this assembly, it will still be possible
for the politicians to debate other matters.

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