31/10/2001

Hard line unionists meet with de Chastelain

Two hard line Ulster Unionists have met with General John de Chastelain on Wednesday to discuss the latest IRA arms moves.

Both Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage asked for the meeting with the head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) to seek clarification on whether the IRA are committed to putting arms completely beyond use.

Coming out of the meeting late on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Weir described the meeting as "useful" and added that both he and Ms Armitage would reflect on what had been discussed.

Speaking before the meeting Ms Armitage said she has tabled seven demands to be met by her party before she will agree to back Mr Trimble’s bid to be re-elected as First Minister. However she added that said she could still support Mr Trimble if three or four were met.

This meeting on Wednesday between the IICD and the UUP hardline faction comes at a highly important time for UUP party leader David Trimble when every vote in his favour will count. On Friday he will find out whether he will receive the necessary backing from his unionist colleagues to be re-elected as First Minister of Northern Ireland’s devolved government.

Both he and Mark Durkan (SDLP) who is tipped to fill Séamus Mallon’s position as Deputy First Minister, require a majority of support from unionist and nationalist quarters in the assembly to be installed as heads of the Stormont cabinet.

Speaking at Trinity College Dublin on Tuesday October 30 Mr Durkan said: “The commencement of IRA decommissioning offers us the chance to take the gun out of Irish politics for good and to build a new society based not on coercion but on consent. Because David Trimble chose to resign, he now has to be re-elected. That requires a majority – not of his party- but of all unionists in the Assembly. That in turn means that decisions on the future of the Agreement now rest in the hands of a few of those least committed to it.” (AMcE)

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