The DUP leader Ian Paisley has stated that he will see out the full four-year term of the Belfast Assembly as First Minister, despite the initial understanding that he would resign within the first two years.
Mr Paisley told British television that he would remain in office despite an expectation that because of his age - he is 81 - he would hand over the leadership and first minister’s post to his deputy, Peter Robinson.
Mr Paisley, who named his ministers on Monday - Mr Robinson, Mr Dodds, Arlene Foster, Edwin Poots and junior minister Mr Paisley jnr - has been preparing to formally take office when devolution is restored on May 8th.
In a documentary to be broadcast on May 8th R Paisley said to interviewer Jim Dougal, “I am going to do the full term”. “I have no intention of retiring because I believe that Ulster needs me, and I believe they need the leadership that I can give them,” he said. “There is no other politician that has the backing of the people as I have,” added Dr Paisley.
That support also came from nationalists, he said. He had “sheaves and sheaves of letters” from Catholics attesting to that support.
In the same interview, Mr Paisley said he was assured from his talks with the British government that a mechanism would be put in place in the Belfast Assembly to issue sanctions against Sinn Féin in the event of any continuing activity by the Provisional IRA.
But he said there had been a drastic change in northern nationalism. “The IRA/Sinn Féin are not the IRA/Sinn Féin of 25 years ago,” he said.
In particular, he said the oath of allegiance to be taken by Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness to the PSNI “destroys the whole basis of historical nationalism and republicanism”.
Mr Paisley said his policy of refusing to talk to Sinn Féin had “won through”.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, deputy first minister-designate Martin McGuinness and Wexford councillor John Dwyer held a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street ahead of the return of power-sharing on May 8th.
Speaking following the meeting, the Sinn Féin leader said it was essential that there was sufficient financial support for the Belfast administration from the British Treasury.
“The fact is we need proper resources because service charges are higher, the cost of living is higher and wages are lower and we are coming out of over 30 years of conflict and underinvestment in infrastructure.
“We have a crazy situation where we are still arguing that the British Government has to match the contribution that the Irish Government is making.
The Sinn Féin president said he was pleased with the work being done by his colleague Martin McGuinness along with Ian Paisley in the preparation period for power sharing.
“I suppose we are in a honeymoon period,” the West Belfast MP said.
“However, my view on this has always been on the record that once people dialogue, once people pro-actively listen to each other’s point of view, that will be for the good of all people.
“I wish them both well as they prepare for power sharing.”
* Former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble is to join the British Conservative Party, it has been confirmed. Trimble, who has named a ‘Lord’ in June last year and was formerly first minister, is to leave the UUP, which he led from 1995 until 2005.