30/04/2003

Trimble warns of election 'nightmare scenario'

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has warned that large gains for extreme unionist and nationalist parties in the forthcoming elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly could lead to a "nightmare scenario''.

While stating his confidence for success on May 29, Mr Trimble appealed for moderate voters from both sides of the community to come out and vote.

He added: "The British Government has an obligation to tell the people of Northern Ireland how the Assembly is going to function when they voted.

"There will be consequences from the election because the way people vote will have consequences for the political balance and the political makeup within Northern Ireland.

"There are problems but the transition so far has been managed by the moderate parties, moderate unionist and moderate nationalist parties, and we've managed with difficulty to take this society through a difficult time without any disasters occurring.

"If we find that the political future is in the hands of extremes on both sides then there will be a nightmare scenario for people in terms of how this transition is managed and that could be hugely significant."

However, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has said he does not believe the Ulster Unionist leader wants the election to go ahead.

Launching his party's election campaign today, Mr Durkan said he hoped that there would soon be clarity on the elections and the intentions of both unionists and republicans.

Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson has hit out at Mr Trimble's meeting with Tony Blair today at Downing Street claiming it was a last minute attempt to have the Assembly election cancelled.

Mr Robinson said: “David Trimble’s trip to see the Prime Minister is the last desperate throw of the dice from a man who sees the electoral writing on the wall. Rarely before has a party leader invested so much time and effort into the quest to stop people going to the polls.

"Instead of knocking doors and facing the electorate Mr Trimble prefers to knock the door of the Prime Minister and dodge the voters. It is time for Trimble to face the verdict of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Elections to the Northern Ireland assembly, which are scheduled to take place on 29 May, remain in doubt as currently there is no agreement on a return to a power-sharing regional assembly.

(MB)

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