ULSTER UNIONIST FEUD RUMBLES ON
The prospect of a truce between feuding camps in the Ulster Unionist
Party still appears remote as the leadership continued with its bid to
discipline three rebel members of parliament
UUP officers voted six to three in a meeting at the party headquarters
to convene a disciplinary committee later this month against UUP
president Martin Smyth, Jeffrey Donaldson David Burnside.
The three dissident MP's condemned the move following their successful
High Court action on Monday which overturned a previous bid to suspend
them from the party after the three resigned the party whip at the
Mr Donaldson criticised the leadership for failing to "draw back
the brink" in the long dispute over the MPs dissatisfaction with
peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking for the UUP's so-called 'No' men, he said: "I think it is
going to do damage to the party, will damage the party's credibility.
"It will do nothing to heal the divisions within the party and I
that a majority of members of the party will just be aghast at this
At today's meeting, which lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, a
majority of those party officers present backed a second bid to
discipline the MPs but did not set a date for such action.
In a statement afterwards they said the UUP's chief executive had been
instructed to bring forward nominations for membership of a
This would be considered by party officers at their next meeting on
July 21 or 22.
The statement added: "In the meantime the officers would hope that
there is an opportunity to be proactive in trying to resolve the
differences between the two factions."
Leaading party member Reg Empey abstained in the vote on disciplinary
action. Instead he proposed a measure to resolve differences in the
party but that was rejected.
Mr Trimble, who did not have a vote at the meeting, left without saying
Unionists are engaging in bonfires tonight and parades and rallies
across the North of Ireland tomorrow to mark the 17th century victory
of King William of Orange over a Catholic army. Trimble is expected
to face criticism at several of the gatherings from hardline members of
the Protestant Orange Order.
TRIMBLE REJECTS RESIGNATION CALL
Earlier this week, the UUP leader rejected calls for his resignation
after only marginally defeating a vote of no confidence motion tabled
by his own constituency association this week.
More than a third of the 184 members of the Upper Bann Unionist
Association supported the motion of no confidence but David Trimble was
determined to put a brave face on it. He described himself as merely
"sad that there are 60-odd delegates who are unhappy with the policy
Party officials were playing down the significance of the percentage
vote against their leader but it has appeared that opposition to
Trimble is growing.
UUP member Robin Oliver, a leading figure in the no confidence motion,
maintained this week that Trimble is now facing over 35% opposition
from within his constituency party, opposition from 47% of the party's
ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, and opposition from "70%
voters out on the street."
Most commentators cite Trimble's biggest mistake as the failure to
utilise his initial landslide victory as UUP leader to reorganise the
party's structures and sever links with the Orange Order.
Despite outflanking his opponents at every crucial junction, Trimble
has failed to take advantage of his repeated victories, allowing his
enemies to regroup and re-engage.