10/10/2003

Rebel MP's set to retake whip

The Ulster Unionist Party's three rebel MP's are set to retake the party whip next week.

Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and the Rev Martin Smyth are said to have discussed the matter privately at a special meeting.

An announcement is expected over the weekend with the three members retaking the Parliamentary whip and returning to the House of Commons next week.

However, the decision was criticised by DUP MP for North Belfast, Nigel Dodd's who claimed the men had put "party before their country".

“At a crunch time for the country, Jeffrey, Martin and David have put party considerations before the needs of Northern Ireland," Mr Dodds said.

"Faced with a choice between leaving the failed pro-Agreement Ulster Unionist Party and throwing their lot in with David Trimble, they have chosen to prop up their Party Leader at the very moment they can actually do something to bring about an end to the miserable leadership and policies of David Trimble."

Mr Donaldson, Mr Burnside and Rev Smyth resigned the party whip in June claiming party leader David Trimble failed to endorse his policy on the joint British-Irish declaration.

They claimed Unionism, led by Mr Trimble, had been "represented at the negotiating table in a weak and dysfunctional state".

(MB)

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