Sinn Fein attacks 'stupid' demands made by Trimble

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Republicans and nationalists reacted angrily yesterday to the tough new attitude adopted by the Ulster Unionists' leader, David Trimble, at the weekend to secure victory at his party's ruling council meeting.

Republicans and nationalists reacted angrily yesterday to the tough new attitude adopted by the Ulster Unionists' leader, David Trimble, at the weekend to secure victory at his party's ruling council meeting.

Both Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) made it clear that they would resist Mr Trimble's threat to bar Sinn Fein ministers from attending meetings with their Irish government counterparts. The Dublin government also expressed concern at the move.

There was relief that Mr Trimble had survived the challenge at the Ulster Unionist Party's council meeting by an anti-Good Friday Agreement faction led by Jeffrey Donaldson MP, but there was also nationalist dismay.

The universal expectation is that a fresh crisis, seen by some as potentially fatal to the Agreement, will arise when Mr Trimble returns to the council in January.

Although Mr Trimble turned down Mr Donaldson's demand that his party should withdraw from the Northern Ireland Assembly in the absence of IRA arms decommissioning, January looks as though it will become a deadline.

Mr Donaldson said yesterday: "The clock is ticking. If the IRA don't decommission by January, we will be back. I believe at that stage there will be a move to exclude Sinn Fein from the Executive."

Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, who as Deputy First Minister is number two to Mr Trimble in the Belfast administration, reacted sharply to the tough new Unionist attitude. He said the moves were unacceptable and possibly in legal breach of the Agreement, adding: "The way in which the decision has been reported suggests to me that this is deliberate provocation to nationalists and republicans."

The weekend developments seem to have worsened relations within the coalition government and appear to guarantee a difficult few months ahead. The hopes of the Agreement's supporters for a relatively quiet period in which the administration might bed down and offer examples of the advantages of devolution seem to have been dashed. Instead there will now be political and perhaps legal battles centring on whether Mr Trimble has the power to exclude Sinn Fein ministers from some of their functions.

Mr Trimble said: "I am very deliberately not walking away. There are a lot of people in the party and in the community too who would want us to walk away, to pull the plug. We are deliberately not doing that."

Sinn Fein figures were in contact with London, Dublin and Washington at the weekend to register protests against Mr Trimble's approach, which Gerry Adams described as "stupid and unattainable".

Mr Adams said: "The two governments should make it... clear that there is no one who is going to chew away at, or tear off, or break up, or have an à la carte attitude to the implementation of this agreement. What I am saying on behalf of Sinn Fein is that we are not going to take this lying down."

Meanwhile, there was concern in Belfast that the death of a loyalist in the north of the city on Saturday night could signal a new outbreak of violence in the paramilitary feud between the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force. David Greer, 21, was found lying on a pavement in Mountcollyer Street by police. UDA sources described him as one of their supporters and claimed he had been shot by the UVF.

Comments