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Exclusion an option to save Assembly: Ford

October 9, 2002 12:00 AM

Alliance Leader David Ford has said the SDLP must stop providing political cover for the republican movement and work with other democrats in the business of running Northern Ireland.

Speaking after a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister on Wednesday night, David Ford said: "I was surprised to hear the SDLP equate the activity of republicans with their concerns about bad faith by unionists.

"It is difficult to see how the SDLP can take such a strident position against Sinn Fein exclusion if a motion was tabled by the Secretary of State, which we believe he is obliged to do. The impotence of the SDLP is that while they claim to understand other parties' difficulties with Sinn Fein's actions, they are not taking the Secretary of State's opinion about serious breaches of the principles of non-violence seriously.

"One wonders what it would take for the SDLP to understand that republicans' ongoing activity is driving our fragile democracy towards political oblivion?

"I told the Prime Minister that exclusion would be a temporary measure until the elections in May. It would only apply against two Sinn Fein ministers. Sinn Fein MLAs would remain in the Assembly. Exclusion would allow the institutions to stay alive rather than be put in cold storage, and would give Sinn Fein an opportunity to prove their democratic credentials and regain some of the trust and confidence that has been lost this week."

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