Soldier hurt in Ulster fire attack

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The Independent Online
A soldier suffered facial injuries last night when petrol bombers attacked police and troops in Lurgan, Co Armagh. Officers fired plastic bullets as the violence flared.

The security forces were attempting to search a section of the Belfast to Dublin railway line, which has been closed for several days following a bomb alert, when they were attacked by youths hurling stones. The youths, from the nationalists Kilwilkie estate, were joined by petrol bombers. The crowds swelled to about 150 and police and troops retaliated with plastic bullets.

There were no reports of any civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, a major row broke out yesterday inside David Trimble's Ulster Unionist party when one of the party's nine MPs announced his intention to run as an independent in the next election.

Cecil Walker, whose constituency in north Belfast has yet to hold its selection meeting, claimed he was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy which had the apparent support of the party leadership.

A split in the Unionist vote in this cockpit constituency could result in an unpredictable contest which might bring the election of a Sinn Fein MP.

Mr Walker yesterday turned down a public request from Mr Trimble to reconsider his decision. The party leader said he knew of no conspiracy to oust Mr Walker, adding that he had taken no role in the matter.

The issue was thrashed out over the airwaves of BBC Radio Ulster, with various party figures emerging to criticise or support Mr Walker. The selection meeting for the seat is to take place in the next few weeks.

Since Mr Trimble's election as leader a year ago it has been an open secret that many members of the parliamentary party he inherited have been giving him less than wholehearted support. Some of Mr Trimble's close associates have made it plain that they wanted to see many of the sitting MPs replaced by younger, more energetic and more right-wing figures.

In a number of other constituencies challenges have been successfully fended off by incumbents, but various elements have made it clear they intended to unseat Mr Walker, and he appears to have concluded that they would succeed. The 71-year-old MP, who has held the seat since 1983, is one of the least prominent of Northern Ireland's 17 MPs.