Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A N. Ireland City Offers a Preview of How Assembly May Work Londonderry Shares Power - Exactly What the Politicians Elected Yesterday Must Do

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A N. Ireland City Offers a Preview of How Assembly May Work Londonderry Shares Power - Exactly What the Politicians Elected Yesterday Must Do

Article excerpt

Anyone wanting to see how Northern Ireland's new assembly may operate could look at the Londonderry City Council.

For nearly two decades, nationalists, who want Northern Ireland to reunite with the Irish Republic, have been in a majority on the council. But unionists, who want to remain part of Britain, have had significant political input.

Unionists have also had a share of the spoils of power, including the mayor's office. This is largely due to the efforts of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), led by John Hume. The SDLP, the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland, is also the largest party on the council. It has used its position to ensure that no party dominates in Londonderry. A recent editorial in the Belfast-based daily Irish News noted that the city "has given a lead to other councils through its power-sharing arrangements." It is hoped the new 108-seat Northern Ireland assembly, elected yesterday, will operate along similar lines to the Londonderry Council (nationalists prefer to call the city Derry). Unlike in the last parliament here, abolished by the British government in 1972 and dominated by unionists, neither of the two communities in Northern Ireland will be able govern alone in the new assembly. David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, the largest unionist party, is expected to become the First Minister of Northern Ireland should the UUP win the most seats. The Deputy First Minister is likely to be a nationalist, Mr. Hume of the SDLP. A 12-member group will also be chosen to head the departments of government and cooperate with the Irish Republic on issues of mutual concern. Ballots will be counted today and possibly tomorrow to determine how many seats each party has won. More than a dozen parties and 296 candidates are participating. The Belfast agreement on the future of Northern Ireland, which was agreed on April 10 and ratified in a referendum May 22, sets out consensus-based rules to govern the new assembly. The agreement states the assembly will be "subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community. …

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