Devolution Now
Devolution Now
Continuing our series looking at the policies and proposals of the North's parties, we present the DUP's proposals for devolution which were published today.



We believe that it should be stable, accountable, effective and efficient. The Belfast Agreement failed to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and a new form of devolution is required. This document sets out how new arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland can be achieved.

Over the last few years the DUP has published a number of documents setting out its policy for devolution. Since 2001 we have produced our `Seven Principles' for devolution, released our critique of the Belfast Agreement in `Towards a New Agreement', published our `Vision for Devolution', set out our `Seven Tests'and dealt with the issues in our `Fair Deal Manifesto'.

Our proposals flow from the policies on which we fought the election. The DUP proposals are based on policies which have been endorsed by a substantial majority of unionists in Northern Ireland.

Our proposals for Strand 2 and Strand 3 matters will be dealt with separately as will our proposals on other issues such as Policing, Justice and Human Rights. In relation to Strand 1, this document represents only our concept for devolution and deals in general terms with the issues which need to be addressed. During the negotiating process we will publish further details on this and other issues in the process.

These proposals take account of political realities in Northern Ireland and are predicated on the basis that only those who are committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means should exercise any Cabinet-style Ministerial responsibility.They allow for change in the nature of any administration in the light of prevailing circumstances; are devised to avoid the collapse of the Assembly even in extreme circumstances; always leave the ultimate authority and accountability with the Northern Ireland Assembly and give equal opportunity and value to all parties in accordance with their mandates. Nationalists and Republicans have attempted to suggest that some unionists ``do not want to have a Fenian about the place''. These proposals demonstrate the sound democratic and accurate position that ``we do not want to have a terrorist about the place.''

We believe that these proposals offer a real opportunity to get devolution up and running in Northern Ireland quickly.

If the issues in Strand 1 can be resolved quickly then the other issues could be resolved in parallel with the institutions up and running or by commissions set up to deal with identified areas of concern.



1.The DUP is a devolutionist party.We believe in democratic, fair and accountable government.

2.No negotiating with the representatives of terrorism but we will talk to other democratic parties.

3.Those who are not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means should not be able to exercise unaccountable executive power.

4.Terrorist structures and weaponry must be removed before the bar to the Stormont Executive can be opened.

5.Any relationship with the Republic of Ireland should be fully accountable to the Assembly.

6.The DUP will work to restore the morale and effectiveness of the police force.

7.We will strive to ensure genuine equality for all including equality in funding.


1.Any Agreement must command the support of both Nationalists and Unionists.

2.Any Assembly must be democratic, fair and accountable.Any executive power must be fully accountable to the Assembly.

3.Only those committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means should exercise any Cabinet-style Ministerial responsibility.

4.Within any new Agreement any relationship with the Republic of Ireland must be fully accountable to the Assembly.

5.A new settlement must be able to deliver equality of opportunity to unionists as well as nationalists.

6.Agreed arrangements must be capable of delivering an efficient and effective administration.

7.The outcome must provide a settlement within the UK, not a process to a united Ireland.It must provide stable government for the people of Northern Ireland and not be susceptible to recurring suspension.


Stable: The Belfast Agreement was not stable and was incapable of delivering stable government.An alternative needs to be established which takes cognisance of parties behaviour but is sufficiently robust to withstand pressure.

Accountable: Ministers were not accountable to the Assembly for their decisions.A mechanism for holding individual Ministers to account must be established.

Effective: The Agreement failed to provide clear direction or effective decision making thus rendering the process cumbersome.The alternative is a system which is responsive, removing unnecessary levels of bureaucracy.

Efficient: Political bureaucracy spiralled out of control under the Agreement.The alternative must provide value for money and cut back the costs of government.


  • We believe that there should be a 72 Member Assembly elected by the Single Transferable Vote form of Proportional Representation with four members from each Westminster constituency. The method of election could be reviewed following a period of stability for the Assembly.
  • In the Assembly cross-community support would be required by means of Key Vote majorities.[see page 11 for details of voting arrangements]
  • The Assembly would have executive and legislative responsibility for the areas which were the responsibility of the six Northern Ireland Departments before 1999 with the exception that responsibility for Social Security would rest at Westminster and responsibility for the Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission would be devolved to Northern Ireland. Other issues should only be transferred to Northern Ireland with the consent of Parliament and a Key Vote of a Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • There should be a maximum of eight Government Departments in Northern Ireland and functions should be determined to best deliver services to the community.
  • We propose the abolition of the Civic Forum.
  • The Assembly, by Key Vote,would determine how executive power was exercised.

    A number of models which could deliver effective decision making could be agreed by the parties to facilitate this consideration. [see section 3, page 12] This could take account of the prevailing circumstances in Northern Ireland and would allow the Assembly to proceed with the most extensive and collective form of devolution which could be facilitated at any time.

  • The administration could either be in some form of an Executive or an arrangement where the Assembly would be a Corporate Body responsible for decision making in an agreed manner. The Executive could be either a voluntary coalition (as in Scotland with collective cabinet responsibility) or a mandatory coalition with arrangements for accountability and effective decision making. This Executive would be subject to a vote of confidence at any time and would require a Key Vote majority to survive.
  • If an Executive could not be formed or if an Executive collapsed powers would be transferred from the Executive/Ministers to the Assembly. On the basis of a Key Vote the Assembly could make arrangements for the exercise of that executive power.
  • There would be a fixed four year term for the Assembly.
  • Arrangements would need to be put in place to ensure a smooth change over from the previous arrangements to the new arrangements.
  • We propose that an Efficiency Commission be established to make recommendations about the value for money of all aspects of the devolved institutions. This would enable an earlier return to devolution and allow matters which are not primarily divisive political issues to be dealt with in a practical manner. [see page 10]
  • Pending the implementation of the findings of the Efficiency Commission and subject to other agreements by Key Vote the existing Government Departments would remain in place.
  • As a default, executive power would be exercised by the Departments subject to the direction and control of the Assembly. Clearly the Assembly would wish to find the most appropriate and effective manner of doing so.


A Commission should be established to make recommendations about the efficiency of every aspect of the devolved institutions. This would include the number of Assembly Members, the number of Government Departments, the functions of Government Departments and the Civic Forum. This Commission would report in time to enable changes to take effect before the next Assembly election. Our proposals - which are consistent with our policy set out in `Rates Time Bomb' - to the Commission will include:

  • Alteration of the size of the Assembly from 108 to 72 members.
  • Reduction in the maximum number of Government Departments to 8.
  • Streamlining of OFMDFM (including removing duplication with other Departments).
  • Reorganisation of functions in Government Departments.
  • Abolition of Civic Forum.

The Commission's remit might include the remaining work to be done in the Review of Public Administration. The Commission should report to the Assembly within a stipulated period making its recommendations. If the Assembly can agree by Key Vote these or other arrangements then Westminster should give the Assembly powers (if necessary) to legislate for these changes. In the absence of agreement HMG would legislate for the necessary changes at Westminster.


  • There should be two categories of votes, Normal Votes and Key Votes.
  • Normal Votes would simply require a majority of Assembly Members present and voting to pass.
  • Key Votes would be either important votes such as the formation of an administration, changes to Assembly procedure or votes which were triggered by a petition of concern which would need 30 MLAs in a 108 member Assembly and proportionately less for a smaller Assembly.
  • A Key Vote could only be passed in one of two ways:

    - Either it would require more than seventy percent of Assembly Members present and voting, or

    - it would require a majority of Assembly Members which also included a majority of designated unionists and a majority of designated nationalists.

  • Designations should be mandated by the electorate and fixed for the Assembly term to prevent abuse of the system.


Our previous policy publications have set out our position on models of administration. `Towards a New Agreement' illustrated the fundamental flaws of the Belfast Agreement and `Vision for Devolution ` suggested possible solutions. Any model of administration must ensure that those associated with terrorism are not permitted in Government, any executive power must be accountable, and coherent decision making must be delivered.

Any proposals must also be stable, accountable, effective and efficient. All the models we propose meet all the requirements of our policy documents.


This form of administration would be established by a Key Vote of the Assembly. Any vote of confidence would also require to attain a Key Vote majority. The Cabinet would be formed following negotiations between the parties on whatever basis could attain a Key Vote majority. Such an agreement is likely to address the distribution and arrangement of Ministerial Offices as well as a Programme for Government.The Cabinet would act by way of collective responsibility and ultimate power would rest with the Cabinet as opposed to the individual Departments.

We believe that this is likely to be the most effective administration and we would be prepared to form a Voluntary Coalition with other democratic parties.


This form of administration would be established by allocating the Departments on a proportionate basis. To ensure that Ministers were accountable, legislative change would be required to ensure that ultimate power would rest with the Executive as opposed to the individual Departments. In addition decisions of the Executive could be challenged by the Assembly and would require a Key Vote of the Assembly to stand.Arrangements would be made to allow each designation to elect to the positions of First Minister and Deputy First Minister as appropriate.

We would not be prepared to support these arrangements whilst those who would be entitled to Ministerial seats were not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. The Prime Minister has set out the tests which need to be passed to enable such parties to participate in any Executive.[see chapter 4, page 16]


In this model the Assembly would be responsible for all Executive functions of the Northern Ireland Departments by way of Key Vote approval. There are a significant number of ways in which this could be achieved including practices which are adopted in Great Britain. In all cases the ultimate power and authority would rest with the Assembly and be subject to the will of the Assembly by Key Vote.The question of terrorist-related parties exercising executive power would therefore not arise.


The decision making process advocated in the Corporate Assembly Model is not inconsistent with the modus operandi in local government. In that context democratic parties have, for many years, been able to represent their constituents within a political structure where, despite an absence of trust, decisions have been taken without the requirement to act in partnership with those associated with terrorism.

During the lifetime of the old Agreement the Ulster Unionist Party entered government with Sinn Féin before any decommissioning was carried out.

On two further occasions they re-entered government with Sinn Féin in parallel with an IRA decommissioning stunt - the extent of which is known to no one other than the IRA and the Decommissioning Body.

Just before the November 2003 election a step by step choreographed deal was unfolding that again was to have the UUP entering government with Sinn Féin on the back of a further ``gesture'' from the IRA.

The Prime Minister has set out in clear terms the requirements that Sinn Féin/IRA must meet. He called them ``acts of completion''.

The DUP, unlike the UUP, will not take the IRA on its word nor accept an incremental process. For the DUP no instalment will satisfy. Completion is what we require and no move to include Sinn Féin in an Executive or granting them executive power will precede the full delivery of the Blair Necessities.

If at any time there is a Key Vote in favour of forming an Executive the Assembly can determine to bring this about. Equally, if an Executive is in place and for whatever reason cannot command the support of the Assembly by Key Vote it would fall and revert to another model.This gives the arrangements the flexibility to react to changed circumstances and the voters the opportunity to make decisions at election time. These arrangements represent both a launch pad and a safety net.


The DUP will not operate the Mandatory Coalition with Sinn Féin before it meets the Blair Necessities but will operate the Voluntary Coalition with parties including the SDLP immediately. If the SDLP is unwilling to operate a Voluntary Coalition in the absence of SF then we would be willing to operate the Corporate Assembly Model until either the SDLP agree to operate a Voluntary Coalition or SF/IRA deliver on the Blair Necessities.



Pledge to the people of Northern Ireland, Wednesday 20 May 1998:

``I pledge to the people of Northern Ireland: Those who use or threaten violence excluded from the Government of Northern Ireland.''

Balmoral, 14th May 1998:

``Those who have used the twin tactics of ballot box and the gun must make a clear choice.There can be no fudge between democracy and terror.''

Belfast NewsLetter, 22nd May 1998

``Representatives of parties intimately linked to paramilitary groups can only be in a future Northern Ireland Government if it is clear that there will be no more violence and the threat of violence has gone. That doesn't just mean decommissioning, but all bombing, killings, beatings, and an end to targeting, recruiting and all the structures of terrorism.''

Belfast Harbour Commissioners Speech, 17th October 2002:

``Another inch by inch negotiation won't work. Symbolic gestures, important in their time, no longer build trust.''

``It's time for acts of completion.''

``Republicans to make the commitment to exclusively peaceful means, real, total and permanent.For all of us, an end to tolerance of paramilitary activity in any form. A decision that from here on in, a criminal act is a criminal act.One law for all, applied equally to all.''

27th November 2002: Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): The Prime Minister is aware that in the past two days my party has met the Minister with responsibility for security in Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. We put one question to both:what is an act of completion? Does it consist of IRA-Sinn Féin repudiating and ceasing violence and being disbanded, or does it simply mean that they make a statement that they will give up violence? Can the Prime Minister tell us what he believes it means?

The Prime Minister:

I can.It is not merely a statement, a declaration or words.It means giving up violence completely in a way that satisfies everyone and gives them confidence that the IRA has ceased its campaign, and enables us to move the democratic process forward, with every party that wants to be in government abiding by the same democratic rules.

Statement, Prime Minister, 1st May 2003:

``What part of no activities do they not understand? Well the answer to that I am afraid is very clear.The answer is, the activities listed in Paragraph 13, because that's what we have asked for.Will those activities continue to be authorised or not by the IRA? Yes or no.It's not a desperately complicated situation, but it is one that requires a very clear answer.

We need to see an immediate, full and permanent cessation of all paramilitary activity, including military attacks, training, targeting, intelligencegathering, acquisition or development of arms or weapons, other preparations for terrorist campaigns, punishment beatings, and attacks and involvement in riots.

Moreover the practice of exiling must come to an end, and the exiled must feel free to return in safety. Similarly, sectarian attacks and intimidation directed at vulnerable communities must cease.''

15th January 2004: ``In respect of the Republican Party - Sinn Féin - is there a clear understanding that we cannot have a situation where any party that is in government is associated with active paramilitary organisations.''

``And we cannot have a situation where people are expected to sit in government with political parties attached to active paramilitary organisations.When people say to me,well you said people wouldn't be in government if they were linked to active paramilitary organisations, that is precisely the reason we have not had a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland, because we have not been satisfied about that.''

``It has got to be clear, you cannot expect after five and a half years of the Good Friday Agreement, you cannot expect people to sit down in government unless they are all playing by the same rules, and there is no way round that.''

House of Commons, 21st January 2004:

``I would like to say that any criminal activity of the sort he has described is completely unacceptable - we cannot have a situation in which people are expected to sit in government with political parties that are attached to active paramilitary organisations.''



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