Not April 1st?

According to the BBC report, we’ll be graced with a visit from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 6th.. pencilled in for now.. and assuming that, this time, there are no last minute changes to the schedule. And the rest of the rumours, via the Irish Times[subs req], are that we’ll be granted 6 weeks of possibly pointless debate in a reconvened Assembly followed by a summer recess.. and back again in the Autumn for more of the same.. maybe.. possibly.. ANYway.. that’s the blueprint, apparently.. But don’t tell anyone.. UpdatedFrom the BBC report –

BC NI political editor Mark Devenport said: “There is little expectation that the politicians will be able to form a power-sharing executive, but officials are considering emergency rule changes which would enable assembly members to conduct some work.

“Under the current procedures, David Trimble and Mark Durkan would be reinstated as acting first and deputy first minister – something any new rules will almost certainly change.

“Political sources suggest that the assembly would break over the summer and then reconvene in September.

“There are different estimates of how long the politicians might be given to form an executive – some sources say October will be a cut-off date, others indicate the deadline will be the end of the year.”

And in the Irish Times –

It appears the governments will convene the Assembly, elected in November 2004, and will then make it clear that, at the end of a defined period, a decision will have to be made on an executive.

Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, the Assembly can meet for six weeks before the d’Hondt mechanism to elect an executive is required to produce a resolution. The two governments are working on a device to prolong the period during which the Assembly can meet beyond this. However, they are not prepared to provide for an unlimited time-frame, as desired by the DUP.

Government sources indicated that the Assembly would be convened as quickly as possible and the initial six-week session will take place before the summer holidays. There is a recognition that six weeks will not be enough, but the precise mechanism for the extension of the Assembly’s life is unclear. It appears the Assembly will be organised so that it can form committees to scrutinise the work of the British ministers who are currently operating direct rule from Westminster. However, this suggestion has met with strong opposition from both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

Update Brian Walker, in the Belfast Telegraph, suggests that there may be no mechanism to prolong the agony Assembly beyond the six week limit.. instead it’s to be tested to destruction..

This time, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern are likely to present the parties with a “take it or leave it ” choice to test the institution to destruction.

They are not expected to propose conditions or a timetable for a shadow Assembly.

Parties in the full Assembly will be free to form an Executive if they wish.

The plan is understood to involve “rolling D’Hondt twice,” allowing the Assembly to sit for the six weeks laid down by law for electing an Executive and if that fails, suspending it for a period, perhaps over the summer, then reconvening it again in the autumn for a second try.

In the meantime the Assembly members would be able – but could not be compelled – to form committees to influence Peter Hain’s controversial reform programme for councils, schools and hospitals.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP remain cool, fearing a recall without a straight commitment to an Executive would create pressure to make Assembly committees the substitute for an inclusive power sharing government of Ministers, which is what the DUP wants.

Gerry Adams said: “There’s only one Assembly and that’s the Assembly as outlined by the Good Friday Agreement.

“There isn’t any half-way house, in-between, transitional, interim arrangement.”

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  • D’Oracle

    Pete,
    Whatever about being graced by such a visit, lets just hope the place is not disgraced by it!