Activists secure Tory debate on Ulster

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The Independent Online
A WELL-ORGANISED lobbying campaign by a small group of Conservatives in Northern Ireland has succeeded in securing a debate at the Tory party conference in Bournemouth in October.

Some 50 motions, an unusually high number, have been submitted on Northern Ireland, almost all going against the thrust of present government policy.

About 46 of the motions are based on a specimen resolution drawn up and circulated by Leonard Fee, chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland. They call for a strengthening of the union, advocate more powers for local government, and oppose devolution - which is one of the Government's main policy planks.

The large number of motions has left party organisers with no option but to hold a debate on Northern Ireland, in which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, is expected to speak.

The tactic of large-scale lobbying campaigns is traditionally associated more with the Labour Party. One Conservative source described Mr Fee's tactics as exceptional in Tory terms.

Conservative conferences have only infrequently debated Northern Ireland, the party hierarchy frequently giving the impression that it prefers not to air the issue.

Mr Fee said yesterday that he had circulated a draft motion to 500 Conservative associations in Britain, and was delighted that almost 50 of them had responded.

A court in Belfast was told yesterday that more than 1,000 witnesses were involved in a case against a leading loyalist accused of directing Protestant terrorism. John Adair, 30, from the Shankill Road district of west Belfast, also faces a charge of membership of the illegal Ulster Freedom Fighters.

At a remand hearing, a lawyer for the Director of Public Prosecutions said that the file would run to more than 1,000 statements and 1,000 exhibits. He said that police were examining Mr Adair's financial position, material found in his house, sightings with convicted terrorists and records of police interviews.