Trimble threatened by Unionist split

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GOVERNMENT SOURCES expressed fears last night that David Trimble's leadership of the Ulster Unionists was being jeopardised by deep splits between party members over Mo Mowlam's ruling that the IRA's ceasefire remained in force.

The Ulster Unionists spent the day discussing hardliners' demands to seek a judicial review of the decision not to declare that the IRA had broken its truce.

Senior government sources said the hardliners clearly wanted to stop Sinn Fein entering a review of the peace process due to start on 6 September by US Senator George Mitchell. Mr Trimble remains keen to have Sinn Fein's commitment to the peace process put to the test. "The split in the Ulster Unionists is the deeply worrying thing for the long term," said a source in London.

Ms Mowlam's advisers fear that Mr Trimble may not be able to deliver his party to an agreement, if the hardliners in his party undermine his leadership.

Pressure for a judicial review was led by the Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who said the Northern Ireland Sentences Act stated "very clearly that an organisation benefiting from prisoner releases must maintain a complete and unequivocal ceasefire".

Ms Mowlam admitted the IRA had been involved in the murder of a Belfast taxi man, he said, and added: "There is a case there for a judicial review but that is subject to legal advice." The Unionists will decide their next move after they have received that advice.

Intelligence reports, page 4