Paisley to boycott high-level devolution talks at Stormont

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley has pulled out of a planned meeting of the North's political leaders today due to a dispute over the timing of Sinn Féin's moves to endorse the PSNI.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley has pulled out of a planned meeting of the North's political leaders today due to a dispute over the timing of Sinn Féin's moves to endorse the PSNI.

The meeting of the Stormont Preparation for Government Committee was due to be attended by the leaders of all the North's main political parties.

It was arranged to discuss the proposals put forward by the Irish and British Governments at last week's St Andrew's talks.

However, the DUP says Dr Paisley will now boycott the talks due to a dispute over when exactly Sinn Féin will be expected to endorse the PSNI by calling an Árd Fheis to discuss the matter.

A party spokesman said they were alarmed at the suggestion that a ministerial vow to support the police would not come into effect until next March even though Martin McGuinness is due to be nominated at Stormont as Deputy First Minister in November.

“It was our understanding that the ministerial code and pledge would be in operation by November 24,” the spokesman said. “There now appears to have been briefings going on suggesting that that is not the case.

“Dr Paisley is heading back from London and we hope to have a meeting with (Northern Secretary) Peter Hain before our Assembly Group meeting at 11.30am to allow the (British) government to explain its position properly.

“Any decision about the Programme for Government Committee will be taken after then.”

The DUP wants Mr McGuinness to sign a ministerial pledge backing the police and the rule of law before he is formally nominated as Deputy First Minister ahead of the November 24 devolution deadline.

The DUP says this is a sign that the measures agreed in Scotland last week are already unravelling.

It is unclear if any of the party’s senior members will be attending today’s Stormont meeting, but talks are ongoing behind-the-scenes to try to get Mr Paisley to change his mind.

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