Hardliners accused of 'dirty tricks' against Trimble

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The Independent Online

Unionist hardliners were accused today of using dirty tricks in a bid to have David Trimble defeated in Saturday's crucial devolution/disarmament vote.

Unionist hardliners were accused today of using dirty tricks in a bid to have David Trimble defeated in Saturday's crucial devolution/disarmament vote.

A bogus letter purporting to be from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was sent to each of the 858 Ulster Unionist delegates due to decide on whether to accept the new peace process proposals.

The letter said: "You know in your hearts that Britain wants out of the North of Ireland as soon as possible.

"Sinn Fein ... would urge you to vote in favour of the Mitchell Deal. By doing so we can move forward together to build a new prosperous Ireland ..."

Senior Ulster Unionist negotiator Sir Reg Empey said: "The Ulster Unionist council will not under any circumstances be intimidated either by physical force nor will we be deflected by cheap dirty tricks."

The incident follows an alleged attack on another senior UUP man, Dermot Nesbitt, who claimed he was punched and his car tyres were let down outside a meeting in Newcastle, Co Down, last night.

The previous night, UUP leader David Trimble and Secretary of State Peter Mandelson were heckled by anti-Good Friday Agreement unionists as they arrived at an Orange Hall in Portadown, Co Armagh.

Sir Reg said the "inevitable consequence" of statements by Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson was a "harry and hound exercise" on Ulster Unionist representatives.

The battle within the UUP is intense between Trimble supporters and hardliners who feel he is compromising the party's "no guns no government" stance.

If Mr Trimble succeeds, a power-sharing government will be set up and an IRA representative appointed to discuss decommissioning with the international arms body next Monday.

But Mr Trimble denied reports he would resign if the IRA had not handed over some weapons by January 31 next year.

"I would regard setting dates like that as wholly counter-productive," he said.

But he admitted there was real concern among unionists that they would be "sucked in and strung out" by the process and he wanted to address these worries.

Asked if he was confident of winning on Saturday, he replied: "We know where the people are."

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