UUP PURGE AGAINST DONALDSON
Anti-Agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson has been
ordered to support the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party
or face expulsion.
A motion was passed at the party's 108- strong executive
telling Mr Donaldson to back party leadership David Trimble or
resign from the party.
An angry Mr Donaldson tonight described it as a purge on the
anti-Agreement wing of the party and blamed an orchestrated
campaign of letter writing aimed at forcing him out.
The resolution agreed tonight stated that Mr Donaldson's
conduct during the Assembly election campaign had been
detrimental to the interests of Ulster Unionism and to the
It was passed by 55 votes to 33 with four abstentions after a
stormy meeting which lasted more than three hours.
Mr Donaldson said: "I believe that this represents a clear
move against not only myself but against the anti-agreement
members of this party.
"I believe this was orchestrated today, there were letters
that came in which were repetitious and clearly that had been
part of a campaign. This was quite deliberate. It was designed
to target me specifically, to blame me for the poor election
result of the Ulster Unionist Party."
Tonight's move follows Mr Donaldson's calls on David Trimble
to resign after the party was overtaken by Ian Paisley's
hardline DUP in last month's Assembly elections.
The Ulster Unionist MP now has a period of three weeks to
support the party leadership or face disciplinary action.
Observers believe it could now be all over for Donaldson and
his allies in the UUP, and that he may carry out his recent
threat to join the DUP.
Earlier, Donaldson claimed Ulster Unionist leader David
Trimble was pushing his party into "the second division" of
He told Mourne Unionist Association's annual meeting: "It is
clear that the leadership has little to show for the gambles
they have taken with the integrity of our party.
"Now we have been overtaken by Sinn Fein/IRA for the first
time in our history in terms of first preference votes cast at
a major election. This represents a humiliation for Ulster
"Yet, in spite of all this, there is no indication that the
leadership will change the policy of the party to reflect the
new political dispensation in unionism. Thus we find
ourselves in the same position as the Conservative Party in
1997 - no change, no chance!"
The DUP secured 30 seats in the Belfast Assembly, with the
Ulster Unionists taking 27. The Ulster Unionists finished
behind the DUP and Sinn Fein in the popular vote.
Mr Trimble denied that there was a conspiracy to purge Mr
Donaldson from the party.
He said: "The Executive very deliberately didn't call on Mr
Donaldson to resign. It isn't our wish that he should do so.
It is instead our wish that he should continue to be a member
of the party supporting the policies and the decisions of the
Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that two weeks
on from the election 'neither Jeffery Donaldson or the DUP
have yet produced a credible plan for the future'.
"The two governments now have a crucial role to play in all of
this," he said. "They must move ahead with a pro-Agreement
agenda and make it clear to the rejectionists that they will
not be allowed to block forward movement.
"Donaldson and the DUP need to recognise that the vast
majority of people who voted in the election voted to support
pro-Agreement parties and they returned a majority of
pro-Agreement MLAs to the Assembly."