Anger flares in attacks by rival Unionists

Ulster poll: Trimble clashes with fellow contenders as fears grow of a splintered vote

The previously low-key Northern Ireland election campaign finally flared into life yesterday as angry attacks and recriminations broke out among the major unionist parties.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday to elect a 110-member forum, which will supply most of the negotiators for the inter-party talks due to open on 10 June.

The outbreak of verbal jousting appears to have its origin in worries within David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party that its campaign is not going well. Reports are circulating that rival parties, principally the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and Robert McCartney's UK Unionists, are making a strong showing.

A poor performance for Mr Trimble would represent a serious blow to his credibility, in that he is regarded as the prime mover in pressing the Government to hold the election in the first place.

The various parties involved sought to portray rivals as being unsound on the issue of the union.

Mr Trimble's party yesterday called a news conference to warn voters against fracturing the Unionist vote, in the process launching a strong attack on Mr Paisley. John Taylor MP accused the DUP of "playing straight into the hands of Dublin", while Mr Trimble said Mr Paisley had formed an unholy alliance with John Hume's Social Democratic and Labour Party for the purpose of doing down the Ulster Unionists.

Mr Paisley, in a swift response, accused Mr Trimble of selling the pass by, he said, being prepared to put the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which set up the state of Northern Ireland, on the negotiating table.

He said that Mr Trimble "dreaded" the DUP, adding: "He's not happy because he's losing out in this election."

Mr McCartney, of the smaller UK Unionists, said that Mr Trimble had turned down his suggestion of a united unionist front to fight the elections. Mr Trimble retorted: "Mr McCartney doesn't tell you that he broke off the discussion and rushed out of the door, pausing only to discharge an epithet in my direction."

With almost a dozen pro-union parties standing in the election, one Unionist nightmare scenario is that the vote would splinter in such a way that the SDLP could, for the first time ever, win most votes.

While not affecting any future negotiations, such an outcome would represent a major psychological setback for Unionism.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine