HARDLINERS' THREAT TO AGREEMENT GROWS
There is increasing concern that the majority of unionists
elected to the Belfast Assembly later this month may be
opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.
On Friday, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble signed the
nomination papers for several members of his own party who are
opposed to the 1998 peace accord.
Meanwhile, pundits are predicting gains for Ian Paisley's
ultra-hardline DUP, Bob McCartney's UKUP and other reactionary
unionists at the expense of Trimble's openly divided camp.
Republicans now wonder which unionist leadership will emerge
from the election to engage in negotiations. The DUP has
called on a re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement
following the elections.
Last month, a deal to bring closure to the conflict and the
full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement collapsed
when David Trimble and the British government reneged on their
Talks are due to resume in December to rescue the deal, which
fell apart over unionist criticism of the showmanship of
Canadian general John de Chastelain and the independent body
tasked with the verification of acts of decommissioning.
Amid broad public frustration at the instability of the
power-sharing institutions and the repeated breakdowns in
negotiations, Trimble and his team face an uphill battle to
defend themselves from their critics at election time.
But hardline unionists have been warned thay they must accept
an all-Ireland agenda if they want to see a return of devolved
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, speaking after meeting US
Special Envoy to the North of Ireland Richard Haass in New
York, said efforts to restore the power sharing institutions
must go ahead urgently after the November 26th elections.
"The quicker after the elections we can get this moving
forward, the better for the process," he said.
With the possibility that Ian Paisley could emerge as the
dominant unionist figure in the next Assembly, Mr Adams said
his party would have to accept the all-Ireland nature of the
"The DUP like all the other parties in the election has to
face up to the reality that not only is the Good Friday
Agreement an international treaty between two governments that
cannot be re-negotiated but if they want a devolved
administration the price they have to pay is it be in an
all-Ireland infrastructure," he said.
The possible response of the DUP following an election triumph
to a refusal of their demand for a renegotiation of the
Agreement remains an unknown factor. Speculation has mounted
that the party could still work the power-sharing institutions
in certain circumstances.
However, even more uncertain is the response of republicans --
already exhausted by six years of insatiable and
ever-increasing demands by David Trimble -- if faced with the
fire-and-brimstone rhetoric of Ian Paisley.
Leading Ulster Unionist hardliner Jeffrey Donaldson has called on
unionist voters to vote only for candidates "they can trust",
and not specifically for his own party.
He said David Trimble's negotiating strategy with republicans
had failed and that he wished to see a broad unionist front
re-elected to the Assembly later this month and the effective
renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
"People should vote for the candidate they feel they can
trust," he said. "We want to see the flaws in the Agreement
addressed, and the only way they can be sorted out is in fresh
"A united unionism is much stronger than an individual party
and I am looking for the other unionist parties to be
Donaldson added to the demands by his party's most recent demands
of an inventory of IRA
arms already put beyond use and a schedule for full decommissioning.
of physical verification is required," he said.
"We need a declaration
that the war is over, that the IRA is going to cease all
paramilitary activity and decommission all its weapons.
"Decommissioning only deals with one aspect of this - there
would have to be other measures."
* A former Ulster Unionist Assembly member will run as a
candidate for Robert McCartney's small hardline UK Unionist
Party in the Assembly election, it emerged today.
Pauline Armitage, who stood down from the Ulster Unionists in
June because of her opposition to David Trimble and the Good
Friday Agreement, is contesting for a seat in East Derry as
one of seven UKUP candidates across the North.