Ulster Peace Talks: Trimble warned on offer `flaws'

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The Independent Online
IMMEDIATE UNIONIST reaction to the joint British and Irish proposals last night ranged from the sceptical to outright rejection.

Most ominously for David Trimble's attempts to sell the deal to his party was the reaction of Jeffrey Donaldson, one of his own negotiating team. Mr Donaldson, who recently rejoined the UUP negotiating team after walking out on Mr Trimble just ahead of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, said the proposals were "fundamentally flawed".

He said: "I don't see how I can commend this document in the present circumstances without decommissioning. I need Sinn Fein/IRA to start decommissioning their weapons."

At a rally of about 1,000 Orange Order supporters in Drumcree, it was difficult to find anyone who would endorse the deal. Orangemen marched up to an army barricade erected to prevent their progress up the Garvaghy Road tomorrow in a dry run of expected confrontation from tomorrow night.

Wallace Shaw 62, from Castle Wallam, Co Down, said: "If Trimble agrees to this, he's finished. Quite simply people do not believe Sinn Fein will decommission. Even if they did, they could get more weapons once they got into power and remove Protestants from the north. That is what Protestants believe will happen - we will be ethnically cleansed."

Robert Priestly, 65, an Orangeman, said: "We've already given too much away. Even if they turned up with a truck load of weapons it would not make any difference because they can always get more."

A girl who gave her name only as Heather, aged 18, said: "The way things are at the moment, I'm not sure this can work. Everyone I know wants peace and no one wants to go back but how can you trust people to govern you when all your experience of them is of shooting at you and bombing you?"

Peter Robinson MP, deputy leader of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, said the proposals were worse than the Hillsborough Declaration and the Downing Street Declaration. "It is worse because this is government before guns without any sanction against the IRA if they don't decommission."

He said Mr Trimble might be able to sell it to his Assembly party and party executive but he would never be able to sell it to the Unionist people of Northern Ireland.

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