May 10, 2006

Sinn Fein will nominate Paisley as N.Irish leader

BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's main Catholic
republican party will nominate Protestant hard-liner and
staunch political opponent Ian Paisley to lead the province's
local government, its President Gerry Adams said on Wednesday.

The move to propose Paisley, an outspoken critic of
Catholic republicanism through decades of sectarian violence,
follows a fresh bid by London and Dublin to revive the assembly
and persuade Paisley to share power with his rivals in Sinn

Adams told a briefing in Belfast that Sinn Fein, political
ally of the Irish Republican Army paramilitary group, would
propose Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Paisley as First
Minister for the mothballed Northern Irish Assembly.

"While Sinn Fein is deeply opposed to the politics and the
polices of the DUP we recognize their electoral mandate and the
right of their leader to be First Minister under the terms of
the Good Friday Agreement," Adams said.

He also proposed Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin
McGuinness, dedicated to ending the British-ruled province's
ties to the United Kingdom that Paisley cherishes, as his

Paisley's DUP is Northern Ireland's biggest party while
Sinn Fein is the main nationalist party.

Paisley has consistently refused to sit in government with
Sinn Fein, however, until he is convinced they and the IRA,
which last year pledged to pursue its aim of a united Ireland
through peaceful means, have given up violence for good.

"Do I believe Ian Paisley will be First Minister? I don't
know. I don't even know if he knows," Adams said. "But I'm sure
he will be conscious of the irony involved in Sinn Fein
preparing to go to Stormont to have him elected as First

The DUP did not sign up to the landmark Good Friday
Agreement that set up Belfast's power-sharing Assembly in 1998.
The Assembly has been suspended since 2002 over allegations of
IRA spying and Britain has ruled from Westminster ever since.

"The objective has to be to get Ian Paisley into the power
sharing arrangements on the terms contained in the Agreement,"
Adams said. "Until this is achieved the Assembly should have no
other role."

The British and Irish governments last month set a November
24 deadline for the revival of the Assembly but deep mistrust
between Northern Ireland's two biggest parties means many doubt
the DUP and Sinn Fein can find enough common ground to meet it.