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Embattled Northern Ireland Assembly halted four times

By David Young, PA

Published 11/09/2015

Suspension of the Assembly was an all-too-familiar feature of power-sharing in the first stumbling years after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The last period of direct rule from Westminster ended in 2007 with Sinn Fein and the DUP's historic deal to head up a new coalition government.

Despite the many travails of that administration, the shape of which was reaffirmed in the 2011 election, the institutions have managed to stay afloat without interruption for eight years.

The four suspensions since the Good Friday Agreement were:

  • February 2000 - Secretary of State Peter Mandelson suspends the Assembly after the Executive fails to strike a deal on IRA decommissioning. The institutions are restored in May after the IRA pledges to put its arsenal beyond use.
  • August 2001 - in the absence of progress on decommissioning, Secretary of State John Reid suspends devolution for 24 hours.
  • September 2001 - with progress on IRA decommissioning, Mr Reid triggers another 24-hour suspension to give the parties further breathing room.
  • October 2002 - Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont are raided by the police as part of an investigation into an alleged IRA spy ring. Mr Reid suspends devolution and announces the return of direct rule by UK Government ministers, which lasted until 2007 when then DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness entered power.

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