27/08/2003

UUP ruling council to discuss disciplining rebel MPs

Ulster Unionist party officers have agreed to call a meeting of the UUP's 900-strong ruling council to discuss disciplinary action against three rebel MPs, the Rev Martin Smyth, Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside.

The council will discuss disciplinary action against the three who were suspended after resigning the party whip at Westminster in protest at party leader David Trimble's policies.

Speaking after the announcement of the meeting, Lagan Valley MP Jeffery Donaldson said he was pleased that it would go ahead.

"The legal opinion obtained by the officers in the past week has completely vindicated the advice that I gave to them at the last officers' meeting, he said.

"I am pleased the meeting is going to go ahead, in the absence of the charges being withdrawn, this is the proper way to deal with it and I look forward to hearing what the delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council have to say."

Mr Trimble said the council meeting would prove a "defining moment" for the party.

"It was always clear this issue was going to go back to a council meeting and of course, if I can coin a phrase, that council meeting will be a defining moment for the party.

"I hope it will result in matters being settled in such a way that we have people abiding by the decisions of the council," he added.

Mr Trimble has toured his constituency associations to brief grassroots on the state of the political process.

At the same time, party colleague and former culture minister Michael McGimpsey hit out at members of the party who were criticising the initiative saying he was "dismayed that some in the party are intent on precipitating another unnecessary Council meeting".

(MB)

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