Unionists 'alarmed' at Trimble's offer

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The Independent Online

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's offer to go back into government with Sinn Fein ahead of IRA decommissioning is causing "great alarm" within the party, one of his senior MPs warned tonight.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson called on his leader to meet senior colleagues on his return from the US to discuss his proposal to reactivate the power sharing executive at Stormont.

Mr Donaldson expressed concern at Mr Trimble's comments, claiming it would be "illogical" to go back into government without decommissioning.

"The unionist well is dry on this issue. I do not understand why we should have to make another concession again," he said.

"We have made enough concessions to republicans when they have coughed up nothing in return. The onus really is on them to deliver actual decommissioning.

"So, why on earth, having had the institutions suspended last month in the absence of any decommissioning, should we now be expected to go back into government without decommissioning?

"I think it would be an incredible decision if this party were to vote to go back into a government with Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun without a single bullet or explosive decommissioned."

The Lagan Valley MP said his phone had been "red hot" with calls from party members concerned that the leadership was contemplating moving once again from a stated position.

"Many people within the party don't understand why the leadership is considering letting the IRA off the hook just when we have the moral high ground and the Provos are under pressure on this issue".

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor backed Mr Donaldson's call for the UUP leader to brief senior members of the party.

The Strangford MP would not discuss Mr Trimble's comments "until we get clarification but rest assured, we will be discussing them on his return from the US."

Mr Trimble repeated his offer to go into government again with Sinn Fein in a radio interview broadcast in Northern Ireland today.

However, the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who served as First Minister in the suspended executive, said if the plan was going to work there needed to be certainty from republicans that the IRA was going to decommission.

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme: "This time we really need to be sure that this is going to work.

"We need to have clear assurances that it's going to work. We had expectations before. This time, we need to have assurances that it to is going to work, that the weapons issue will be addressed properly and comprehensively.

"We do need to see republicans engage seriously with ourselves and the other parties, so that we can all be sure that it wil work."

The UUP leader said a statement from the IRA that the war is over would be one move which would help reassure unionists but in itself would not be sufficient.

However, Sinn Fein remained sceptical about Mr Trimble's offer.

The party's national chairman Mitchel McLaughlin told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have been listening very carefully to David Trimble's comments but also we have been listening to Mr Trimble's party colleagues in the North and they are making it clear that next week's party conference could take a different view.

"David Trimble has made a number of claims in the past only to have them reversed by his party.

"We will move, we will work with David Trimble, we will make politics work but we can't do it at the point of a gun, if you don't mind me saying so.

"We can't work with David Trimble going round with letters of resignation in his pocket all the time."