Fowler denies scaling down of Conservative activity in Ulster

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Support for Conservative efforts in Northern Ireland continued, Sir Norman Fowler, the party's chairman, said in a statement yesterday, writes Anthony Bevins.

Replying to Tuesday's dismissive remarks about the Ulster Conservatives, made by Mr Molyneaux, Sir Norman said reports of moves to 'scale down, or even wind up' associations were without foundation.

'They continue to have my support in their efforts to spread Conservative principles and values throughout Northern Ireland,' Sir Norman said.

The Tories won little more than 10 per cent of the votes in 11 seats contested in last year's election, and Mr Molyneaux said that their local representation had been halved in this year's council elections.

'It was the National Union of the Conservative Party that experienced a rush of blood to the head,' Mr Molyneaux said, 'and in a very emotional way decided that they would field candidates in Northern Ireland and thus strengthen the Union.

'That was their very laudable aim; I don't quarrel with that. The problem is that on this side of the water in the Conservative Party, enthusiasm for that experiment has been very much on the wane.'