13 May 2006

Ervine to join UUP assembly group


The NI Assembly is being recalled on Monday

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine is expected to join the Ulster Unionist group when the Northern Ireland Assembly is recalled on Monday.

It is understood an official approach was made to him on Friday.

The PUP executive is currently holding talks and Mr Ervine will remain its leader.

However, the move could mean the UUP receiving an extra ministerial post if there is agreement and the d'Hondt formula is put into operation.

The d'Hondt method is a highest averages method for allocating seats.

Northern Ireland's 108 assembly members will gather on Monday for the first time since they were elected in November 2003.

The political parties will then have six weeks to elect an executive.

If the parties fail to do so, they will get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. It that attempt fails, their salaries will be stopped.

The British and Irish governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

The deputy leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson, said his party's consultation of the unionist community on whether to share power with republicans could begin in the autumn.

He said the Independent Monitoring Commission would need to conclude that the IRA had ended all paramilitary and criminal activity.

Mr Robinson said too many grey areas still existed to begin any consultation now.

He said "there would be no point in going to the community" because "grey areas can't be allowed to exist".

"We are on the ground so we have a fair idea what people's thinking is," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme.

"We want to give them that wider opportunity, that the prime minister flagged up, that people have to be satisfied.

"We will give them that opportunity, presumably some time around October or November."

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring.

A court case arising from the allegations later collapsed.

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