26/06/2003

Three UUP rebels face disciplinary action

Three rebel Ulster Unionist members are to face the party's disciplinary committee following their resignation of the parliamentary whip at Westminster earlier in the week.

Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and Martin Smyth all face action after calling into question David Trimble's leadership of the party during and after negotiations of the British and Irish Joint Declaration.

The motion was passed by five votes to two following an emergency meeting of Party officers at UUP headquarters on Thursday morning.

Mr Trimble said he had "no alternative" to call the meeting because the UUP could not carry on with "a party within a party".

Mr Donaldson said he regretted the decision but claimed it would do nothing to address the problems within the party at present.

UUP president and South Belfast MP, Rev Martin Smyth, Lagan Valley MP, Jeffrey Donaldson and South Antrim MP David Burnside announced their decision to resign the whip in the hope of increasing the pressure on Mr Trimble to alter his support for the recent British Irish Joint Declaration.

Mr Burnside said that the party leader's position was “untenable” unless there was a complete volte face by the UUP leadership.

All three MPs are believed to have discussed a possible united unionist front against the Joint Declaration with representatives of the hardline anti-agreement unionist parties - UK Unionist Party, led by former MP Robert McCartney; and the Democratic Unionist Party, led by the Dr Ian Paisley.

(MB)

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