Unionists withdraw from Ulster executive

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The Independent Online

Ulster Unionist ministers will quit the Northern Ireland power–sharing executive at midnight, party leader David Trimble said today.

Letters of resignation from the acting first minister Sir Reg Empey, arts minister Michael McGimpsey and environment minister Sam Foster were lodged with the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Confirming the move, Mr Trimble said that if the IRA began "the process of actual decommissioning in a meaningful and verifiable manner our ministers can be re–appointed immediately".

Mr Trimble laid the blame for the resignations on the IRA's failure to disarm.

He insisted his party had sustained the power–sharing executive at Stormont for 18 months without any action by republicans on the decommissioning.

"The IRA had not only failed to decommission but it has continued to engage in violence and murder along with loyalist paramilitaries.

"This is therefore a blatant breach of the terms of the Agreement and the standards required of a movement which has members holding ministerial office," he said

Mr Trimble added that the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid now had seven days to decide if he would suspend the power–sharing government, Assembly and other political institutions in the advent of no IRA disarmament or to permit their collapse.