UUP offers plan for 90 member elected body

 

THE UUP yesterday published its proposals for a 90 member elected body for Northern Ireland. It maintains the body "can lead to" all parties engaging in negotiations on the future governance of the North and on the "totality of relationships throughout Britain and Ireland.

The body would be required to prepare reports for the Northern Ireland Secretary, and the method for adopting those reports would be by broadly based consensus, suggests the document, The Democratic Imperative.

The 12 page document, a copy of which was presented to the British Prime Minister, Mr Major, by the UUP leader, Mr David Trimble, at Downing Street on Tuesday, envisages the elected body being operational by May or June.

The UUP wants the body to be elected by proportional representation from the 18 new parliamentary constituencies, on the basis of five people being returned from each.

The body would be established by legislation and would meet to select a chairperson and deputy chairperson. It would appoint committees, by proportionality, to carry out much of the work and to report back to plenary sessions of the 90 member body itself.

No formal role for the Irish Government is envisaged in the plan, but the elected body and its committees would be empowered to receive representations from Dublin on certain issues.

The document says the UUP wishes to see the establishment of a proper and appropriate relationship with the Irish Republic both for the mutual exploitation of any economic benefits and the acknowledgment of Northern nationalists" empathy with the Republic consistent with Northern Ireland remaining an integral part of the United Kingdom.

The document asserts that the UUP wishes to see full scale all party negotiations as soon as possible. It wishes to participate in discussions on matters relating to the administration of Northern Ireland the relationship between Belfast and London; the relationship between Belfast and Dublin; and the wider relationships between London, Dublin and the rest of Europe.

The UUP was calling for elections to establish, on behalf of those seeking to engage in all party talks, a mandate based on subscription to democratic procedure.

"In order for parties to come to the negotiating table with a willingness and a positive expectation of reaching agreement, they must be confident that all are there on an equal basis, with no possibility of turning back to the bad old ways of the last 25 years," the document states.

All paramilitary groupings would have to prove their willingness to make the transition to fully democratic procedures.

"The outcome would be the emergence of Sinn Fein and loyalist fringe parties into the political mainstream, but only after they had established their democratic credentials publicly and conclusively by way of an electoral commitment to democratic methods. Only then could they be accepted on the basis of their respective democratic mandates."

The elected body would required to prepare a report reports for the Northern Secretary on proposals for the future governance of Northern Ireland and the relationships between all the constitutional units in the British Isles.

The Northern Secretary might require the body's recommendations to be placed before parliament and the people of Northern Ireland for approval by means of a referendum, before implementation.

Mr Reg Empey, a joint honorary secretary of the UUP, introduced the document at a press conference in Belfast yesterday. He said it was 21 years since the elected path had been tried in northern Ireland and it was time it was tried again.

Complete flexibility was the objective of the model the UUP had tried to devise. It was also prepared to address the "totality" of relationships with the Republic.

Asked whether Sinn Fein should be allowed to participate in elections if the IRA ceasefire was not resumed, Mr Empey said that was a matter for negotiation.

On the suggestion by Mr Dick Spring of proximity talks, he said they had not yet been presented with any specific proposals but they did not rule that option out. They would listen to any proposals.

The Sinn Fein vice president, Mr Pat Doherty, said the election proposal was clearly "another stalling device, designed to push back all party talks".

Elections had an obvious part to play in consolidating and democratising an agreement, but they should come as a product of, not as a precondition to, negotiations.