Trimble wins motion; 'Votes feared more than guns' - McGuinness
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble won a vote of no confidence in him
by his own constituency association last night, by 115 votes to 69.
"I'm sad that there are 60-odd delegates who are unhappy with the
policy of the party," he said afterwards. "And I'm sad that
division within the party is distracting attention away from the real
underlying problem, which is continuing paramilitary activity."
Trimble's Upper Bann constituency has a hardline reputation, but the
margin of victory was significantly greater than he has achieved in
recent divisions of the party's ruling council. Nevertheless,
Trimble's leadership was reported to be under increasing attack
following a High Court ruling on Monday.
The High Court which found that the party had acted improperly in
disciplining the three members of parliament who resigned the whip and
formed a separate grouping at the Westminster parliament in London.
The judge said the committee's decision was "irregular" on several
grounds involving its own rules. Rejectionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson, as
a member of the committee, should have been entitled to vote, he ruled.
The disciplinary committee was constituted specially for the decision
to suspend the three MPs, he said, and therefore had "no legal effect".
Afterwards Donaldson called on party leader David Trimble to "draw
from the brink"
"I would simply say, catch yourself on. If you want to save your
from implosion, draw back."
Lord Kilclooney, the former Mr John Taylor and a one-time deputy leader
to Mr Trimble, has appealed for both sides in the UUP feud to talk
through their differences.
Speaking during a visit to London, Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin
McGuinness urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to call elections to
the Belfast Assembly as a matter of urgency in order to restore
momentum to the peace process.
Mr McGuinness said he hoped Mr Trimble would emerge triumphant from the
current power struggles in the UUP and believed Mr Jeffrey Donaldson's
decision to resign the party whip meant he was unlikely ever to lead
the Ulster Unionists.
But he said that whoever led the UUP in future would have to come to
terms with the fact that the Good Friday Agreement was "the only
Mr McGuinness said: "The decision to postpone the elections by Tony
Blair effectively disempowers the pro-Agreement parties and it is
absolutely vital and essential that the British Prime Minister
recognises that these elections should take place in the autumn of this
"If we see a situation whereby the suspension of the institutions,
the cancellation of the elections which does not provide then for the
establishment of an Assembly and Executive, goes past the one-year
anniversary in October, I think the Good Friday Agreement will be in
"I think there is a huge responsibility on everyone here in England
in Westminster to make it clear to the British Prime Minister that
these elections need to take place as a matter of urgency."
The postponement of elections had created "a dangerous power vacuum
that could be filled by those who are not well-disposed to the peace
process" in both the unionist and republican camps, warned Mr
Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons on Tuesday,
during a two day round of meetings in London, he said the Sinn Fein
leadership was committed to finding an accommodation in the coming
But, "it is vital that the key player in this process, Tony Blair,
recognises the need to hold these elections as a matter of urgency so
that politics can be seen to work and so that the political leaders on
the pro-Agreement side, rather than being undermined by the present
situation, will be supported in their efforts to restore confidence in
UNIONISM FEARS SF VOTES
On the question of the IRA, Martin McGuinness said he accepted that
"within the Unionist psyche there is a problem with the fact that
is an organisation called the IRA". But it was also the case, he
that "within the Unionist psyche there is problem with the fact that
there is an organisation called Sinn Fein which has huge electoral
He pointed to a statement this week by the DUP's Ian Paisley that Sinn
Fein should be disbanded as sympotamatic of a wider malaise. Speaking
at a press conference, Paisley insisted: "The IRA has to be utterly
disbanded. Sinn Fein, as it stands, has to be disbanded. If a new party
was formed to represent republicans in a democratic way then that would
be the way forward for them."
The 'Disband Sinn Fein' call has been interpreted as an attempt by
Paisley to rein in senior members of the party who have appeared to
accept that dialogue with Sinn Fein is inevitable.
Mr McGuinness said that, even though Paisley's statement was
outlandish, the fact of the matter was that many unionists see the
increase in support for Sinn Fein as fundamentally changing the nature
of the northern state.
"I have come to the conclusion that there are many within the political
leadership of Unionism who now fear Republican votes more than they
fear Republican guns. Many Republicans have said to me that they
believe that Unionist leaders fear peace. Many have come to the
conclusion that it really doesn't matter what the Sinn Fein leadership
says and it doesn't matter what the IRA does, people within the UUP
leadership and the DUP are not prepared to embrace change"
He said people should not fall into the Unionist trap of believing that
the fact that the IRA exists is the biggest problem.
"I think the biggest problem is that Unionists have found it hard
come to terms with the type of change that the Good Friday envisaged;
they have found it hard to come to terms with power sharing. We know
this because we are told by key people close to Unionism that at least
one third of Unionists don't want a Catholic about the place - not of
the Sinn Fein variety, not of the SDLP variety".
He called on David Trimble and pro-Agreement Unionists to
wholeheartedly embrace the Good Friday Agreement and sell it to their
constituency. In doing so, he said, he believed they will have the
opportunity to achieve "the best possible result" in any election,
in the process may well out-manoeuvre the opposition forces within
"It is not unreasonable to expect David Trimble - who has got to
Gerry Adams very well - to give leadership and tell the Unionist
community what I believe he knows in his heart and soul; that Gerry
Adams is a man of peace, that Gerry Adams wants the peace process to
succeed, and that he, David Trimble, as leader of the UUP, is prepared
to work in partnership with Gerry Adams and the other pro-Agreement
parties to ensure the success of the peace process" he said.