24/06/2005

UUP set to decide on new leader

The Ulster Unionist Party is just 24 hours away from electing a new leader to replace David Trimble on this its centenary year.

The party’s 770 council delegates will meet at a Belfast hotel on Friday night to elect a new leader from the trio of candidates: Sir Reg Empey, Alan McFarland and David McNarry.

Sir Reg, a former Stormont enterprise minister said the UUP was guilty of "not listening" to its supporters and vowed to change that if he became leader. Mr McNarry said he wanted to "take the party out of denial" while restoring trust and confidence, while Mr McFarland said he was leading a "grass-roots rebellion” and that the party needed a "new dynamic leadership".

Many political observers are backing Sir Reg to emerge victorious, however Mr McFarland has the backing of the UUP’s only sitting MP Sylvia Hermon.

Mr Trimble resigned as the party’s leader after the UUP lost all but one of its MPs in the May general election including his own Upper Bann constituency.

(MB/SP)

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