looks set to come early for the North's cash-strapped
Stormont members with strong hints the British Government
will extend the life of the suspended Assembly to
108 MLAs have received formal letters from Northern
Secretary Peter Hain telling them to sack their
staff after the 24 November deadline when their
lucrative salaries and expenses will be chopped.
well-placed Stormont sources have told me negotiations
to set up a power-sharing Executive after the November
deadline will be extended to 31 December before
the Assembly is finally axed.
it is unlikely the cash will flow again after 24
November until a new Executive is formed.
Governments are hoping Unionists and Republicans
can reach a deal on the Executive before the November
Stormont in summer recess, the main stumbling block
to progress would appear to be the reluctance of
religious zealots in Ian Paisley's DUP to strike
a deal with Sinn Fein.
sources say the peace process is log jammed over
the issue of policing. Sinn Fein still refuses to
join the Northern Policing Board, and unless Republicans
take their seats on the body, Paisley is unlikely
to risk cutting the deal.
major problem is that Paisley's highly volatile
religious fundamentalist faction holds power in
the party. A DUP/Sinn Fein Executive could fatally
split Paisley's party with ultra Right-wingers quitting
the DUP to form a new hardline Unionist movement
under the leadership of popular DUP MEP Jim Allister.
factions presently comprise the DUP Paisley's
ruling fundamentalists; pro-deal modernisers around
deputy boss Peter Robinson, and Allister's grassroots
hard Right supporters.
25 November to 31 December, Stormont sources claim
while MLAs will not be paid, negotiations will continue,
but the Assembly will exist in name only.
they claim negotiations will still continue with
the parties from January 2007 until May 2007 even
with the Assembly axed.
an Executive is agreed before the end of May 2007,
the original Assembly elected in November 2003 will
be recalled and given a year to 'bed in' before
fresh elections in May 2008.
there's no Executive by May 2007, elections will
be called in the hope voters will abandon the DUP
within Unionism because nothing has been achieved.
this timeframe, the cross-border bodies and
especially the British Irish Inter-parliamentary
body will be strengthened.
Stormont sources claim if it appears there is little
hope of any deal by Easter 2007, the elections plan
itself could be scrapped and joint authority of
the North by Dublin and London introduced instead
of the present Direct Rule from Westminster.
pressure will now be heaped on the DUP and Paisley
himself to deal before November's cut-off date.
Aged nearly 81, Paisley will surely be pondering
his legacy to Unionism.
whether he dies, retires or follows his wife, Eileen,
into the British House of Lords is not an issue.
He does not want to risk leaving a fatally split
party which erupts into a bitter leadership civil
war between the DUP's three factions.
key pressure point on Paisley will be the fate of
his fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church which
he founded in 1952 almost two decades before
he formed the DUP in 1971.
as the Free P's, Paisley had already cut his teeth
as a Hell fire preacher before becoming a firebrand
mainstream Irish Presbyterianism which elects its
Moderator annually, Paisley has been life-long Moderator
of the Free Church. But which is more important
to Paisley his Christian faith or his Unionist
an estimated membership of some 14,000 across the
North, a number of churches in the Republic, Britain
and North America, along with a missionary outreach
in Africa, he will not want a DUP-style power struggle
to engulf the Free Church.
Paisley could cut a deal which maintains unity in
the DUP, then retire to the British Lords, it would
give him time to ensure a smooth leadership transition
in the Free Church.
nightmare scenario would be internal strife within
both party and Church. He can avoid the latter by
settling the former.
the party, three factions have emerged within the
Free Church over more than half a century of its
controlling faction is firmly behind Paisley believing
in mixing both politics and religion. But a minority
faction wants to divorce a post-Paisley Free Church
from politics, believing the image of the Church
as the DUP at prayer has hindered its Christian
outreach work, especially in the Republic.
third faction wants to develop more formal links
with 'born again' Christians from other Protestant
Churches in the North, such as the Baptists, Elim
Pentecostalists, Free and Independent Methodists,
and the Plymouth and Exclusive Brethren.
faction would like to see the formation of a Pan
Biblical Front with other Protestant denominations.
the past, the Free Church has frowned heavily on
relationship with other Churches and has been openly
critical of the so-called Big Three Protestant denominations
Presbyterianism, Methodism and the Church
the leading contenders at this stage in the battle
to succeed Paisley as Moderator are the Free Church's
main media face, Rev David McIlveen of Belfast;
Gospel-singing South Antrim MP Rev William McCrea;
Paisley's son Kyle, and former Elim pastor Rev David