30/08/2002

UUP meet to schedule council meeting

Ulster Unionist Party officers are meeting in Co Fermanagh today to decide the scheduling of the council meeting forced by hardliners within the party.

Hardline elements from within the party gathered the 60 signatures needed to force an emergency meeting of the 860-strong council on Monday.

The UUP leader David Trimble had earlier last month called for a meeting of the council to review their role with Sinn Fein in the power-sharing executive – precisely the same motive behind Tuesday's petition. Many observers would interpret the move as a stunt, as it would appear that without the petition the council meeting would have happened in September anyway.

The 14 members of the party's inner council will decide when to stage the meeting, which had to be held within three weeks from today according to party rules.

Sinn Fein's chief whip, Sue Ramsey urged the UUP not to withdraw from executive.

"Unionism needs to look at where they are trying to take us. A strategy based on rejecting the Sinn Fein mandate is not only fundamentally undemocratic but is feeding into the political vacuum that anti-agreement forces thrive in," she said.

Indeed, the prospect of a withdrawal from the executive was mooted in a statement sanctioned by UUP headquarters last month. UUP assembly member Fred Cobain made it clear that the party would bring down the power-sharing executive if the British government did not act against paramilitary violence.

Mr Cobain said: "Unless there is a clear commitment from Sinn Fein to the agreement there will not be an Assembly next year. It will not be around for the elections because David Trimble and the party have made a commitment – if we do not see moves by republicans on decommissioning and disbandment of the paramilitaries, action will be taken.

"There is no alternative to the agreement, so, at this time, a return to direct rule would seem to be the only remaining way forward."

The statement was aimed to apply pressure on Downing Street, the North Belfast assembly member made those comments one week before the Prime Minister and Northern Ireland secretary outlined their response to paramilitarism.

However, the council meeting may be more serious for David Trimble's future as leader of the party, as two powerful advocates for the hardline faction MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside become more vocal in their opposition to the direction the party is going.

With a record of swinging troublesome council meetings behind him, David Trimble could find this one the most testing of all.

(GMcG)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

23 September 2002
UUP threaten executive walk out after council meeting
The future of the assembly has once again been endangered after the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) agreed a proposal for its ministers to walk out of the executive if paramilitary groups have not begun the process of disbandment within three months.
26 November 2021
New Cross-Border Economic Growth Partnership Established
A new cross-border partnership established to foster economic growth between Belfast and Dublin, a key strategic route, has announced its inaugural political leadership team.
24 September 2002
Adams hits out at UUP threats
Sinn Fein has called on the British government to stand firm against the Ulster Unionist Party over its threat to pull members from the power-sharing executive if the IRA fails to show evidence of moving towards disbandment. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams made the call following a meeting with SDLP leader Mark Durkan earlier today.
27 August 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.
18 October 2001
Midnight withdrawal of UUP ministers
Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has announced the resignation of the three UUP ministers in the Northern Ireland’s power sharing executive. Mr Trimble made the announcement at Stormont around 4pm on Thursday October 18. He said that resignation letters from all ministers had been lodged and would take effect as of midnight tonight.