HARDLINERS SUSPENDED FROM UUP
Jeffrey Donaldson and his fellow dissident Ulster Unionist MPs have
been suspended from their party following their decision to resign the
party whip and operate independently at the Westminster parliament.
The move has deepened the dispute in the UUP between hardline opponents
of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the leadership of David Trimble.
The party's disciplinary committee set up at the request of Mr Trimble
to suspended perennial agitator Jeffrey Donaldson from the party along
with MPs David Burnside and the Rev Martin Smyth.
The party's officer board established the committee on Thursday to
consider a charge that the three MPs in resigning the Westminster whip,
and in refusing to obey party policy endorsed by the Ulster Unionist
Council, were acting in a fashion detrimental to Ulster Unionism.
The three have opposed the leadership of David Trimble and have called
for the outright rejection of the Joint Declaration by the irish and
British governments, which sets out a plan for the implementation of
the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
On Thursday, Mr Trimble expressed the hope that "in view of the
prominence of the issue" the case should be dealt with speedily.
The three MPs were angered that the suspension took place before they
put their own case to the committee. Donaldson described the
disciplinary committee as a "kangaroo court" and that Trimble's
belonged to "communist China or Stalinist Russia".
"The move against the three MPs is, in effect, a move against half
this party, he said on Thursday. "It is saying that the UUP is no
longer a broad church, there is no longer room for dissenting voices."
Under the rules of the Ulster Unionist Party anyone suspended ceases to
be a member and loses all rights and privileges of membership. The
three MPs can address a disciplinary committee meeting on July 17th,
when the suspension could be lifted. However, Mr Trimble has expressed
his determination that the party could no longer tolerate a "party
within a party".
Mr Donaldson said yesterday that Mr Trimble "has made no secret of
desire that we should be removed from the party". The three MPs are
seeking a further meeting of the party's ruling council for another
showdown with Mr Trimble, but it is understood that this will not take
place before the disciplinary committee meeting, when the three MPs are
likely be expelled.
Mr Donaldson claimed that the suspension was in contravention of the
rules of the party which, he said, dictated that disciplinary measures
could only be taken after those charged had put their defence.
The three are now seeking legal advice to test whether the suspension
could be challenged. Mr Burnside described the suspension as
"contemptible", while Mr Smyth said the decision was contrary
The UUP leader on Saturday called on the trio not to provoke a full
split, He said: "They need now to draw back from the brink and to
again. I want to repeat that again and again. There is no need for this
lemming-like rush to the edge".
Meanwhile, efforts have continued to encourage the British government
to allow elections to the Belfast Assembly, twice postponed, to proceed
in the Autumn.
US Special Envoy Richard Haass is in London to meet British of
Secretary Paul Murphy and senior nationalist and unionist politicians.
He said he believed there was still a unionist partner to drive forward
the political process and re-establish the Belfast Assembly.
"My goal is to see elections held this Fall (autumn), and to see
standing up of the local institutions. What I am trying to figure out
is how to get from here to there. It is that simple and it is that
Calling again for the elections to be held, Sinn Fein President Gerry
Adams said the cancellation of the elections in May by the British
Prime Minister Tony Blair was "one of the core difficulties"
On a meeting next Tuesday between Mr Ahern and Mr Blair, he said: "What
I would like to see coming out of that meeting is a definitive
unconditional unqualified assertion that the election is going to go
ahead." Such elections would provide anchorage, he said, restoring
centre of gravity to the political process.
Mr Adams said voters should not have to wait for elections until the
problems in unionism were resolved. "Unionism is in crisis. It would
better if it wasn't, but it is. But we can't wait."
Referring to anti-agreement unionists he said: "If they want devolution
and they say they do, the price for that is all-Ireland institutions.
There's no other way they're getting devolution, except in those
The Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle [leadership] discussed the party's ongoing
efforts to secure an unqualified assertion from the two Governments
that elections to the Assembly will go ahead without further threat of
postponement or cancellation.
It was confirmed this week that the Sinn Fein leadership will continue
with its deliberations with the governments and with the Ulster
Unionists over the summer period. It is understood that all the parties
and the two governments are keen to continue to speak to one and other
during a traditionally combustible period.
Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking after the meeting this
[Saturday] morning, said that the only way to fill the dangerous
political vacuum which has been allowed to develop is through the
implementation of the Agreement and he setting of a firm date for the
"For some time now the British government has allowed the process
drift into a dangerous political vacuum, through the suspension of the
institutions, the cancellation of the elections and the failure to
implement the Agreement. And the only thing that is guaranteed, if we
continue with this policy, is that there will be no executive, no
power sharing and no political progress."
Mr McLaughlin urged the Irish government needs to use the opportunity
of next week's meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental
Conference to move the British government "from this negative position"
into supporting a renewal of the peace process.
"There can be no preconditions placed on peoples' democratic right
vote," he said. "We need to see the continued implementation
Good Friday Agreement, we need to see politics working and central to
this is the setting of a firm date for the Assembly elections in the