Unionist split ensures rocky road ahead

David McKittrick reports on the serious obstacles to the smooth working of the new Northern Ireland assembly

AS WELL as running Northern Ireland, the new Belfast assembly was designed to have an important secondary purpose: that of providing a new model for cooperation and co-existence which would help its divided people see that it was possible to live together.

It will certainly come into being, but yesterday the dismaying realisation was sinking in that in all probability the new institution is going to be a bitter and divisive battleground - in essence a forum for war by another means. The efforts to construct a new and better Northern Ireland will continue. The chances are that they will eventually succeed, for the vast majority of its people have clearly psychologically discarded the idea of armed force.

But the election results show that the transition from war to the hoped- for peace is going to be messy, ill-tempered and fractious. The Rev Ian Paisley and his allies are going to be in there in strength, a constant reminder that a significant section of the population is opposed to the new deal.

John Hume and Gerry Adams will be present as representatives of a nationalist population which is almost unanimously enthusiastic about the new disposition. But David Trimble's Ulster Unionists will daily be slugging it out with Mr Paisley, representatives of a deeply fractured Protestant community.

The population as a whole is overwhelmingly in favour of the Good Friday deal which outlined the new constitutional architecture of the assembly and a new north-south body, together with the release of paramilitary prisoners and a raft of reforms in policing and other areas.

Last month's referendum on the Good Friday agreement produced a figure of 71 per cent in favour of the accord, a momentous majority by any standards. In this election it seems this went up slightly, with three-quarters of voters giving their preferences to pro-agreement candidates.

This aspect of the result will be cause for modest celebration in London and Dublin, for this figure clearly represents sufficient consensus to proceed with the plans for change. To be truly stable, however, the ambitious scheme needs to be firmly rooted in both the nationalist and Unionist communities. The problem is that Unionism is in something close to crisis. In effect civil war has just broken out, with the Trimble and Paisley camps so balanced that working out this particular conflict is bound to be long and difficult.

Mr Trimble looks like being First Minister in the executive which will run the assembly. He already faced the task of establishing working relationships with Mr Hume and, probably, Mr Adams as well. He will now be called on to do so while simultaneously fighting off Paisleyite assaults on his flank.

It is therefore impossible to have complete confidence that the new institution can look forward to a stable existence. Consent has been one of the buzzwords of recent months. Northern Ireland as a whole has clearly given its consent to the new arrangements, but it is debatable whether the Unionist population has done so. And the factions within its political elite are at daggers drawn; some of Mr Trimble's MPs in open, televised conflict.

The battle lines are so sharply drawn, in fact, that there is already talk of new political alignments. Mr Trimble has lost the support of six of his party's 10 MPs, and will not get it back. Two members of his party who ran as anti-agreement candidates were elected to the assembly.

One question is whether this fracturing will become formalised into a new Unionist rejectionist front. Another question is how well his half of Unionism will hold up in the assembly. He will receive support from Tony Blair, John Hume and the other believers in partnership in the new institution, but his supporters will also have to weather constant Paisleyite bombardments.

Political skills will count for much here. Those who dismiss Mr Paisley as a bellowing clown should realise that behind the bluster and the defective volume control lies one of the shrewdest political brains in Ireland.

Mr Trimble will need to be vigilant. Virtually no one in his camp is as enthusiastic about the accord as the nationalists are and Mr Paisley will descend, as a wolf on the fold, to carry away any waverers in the Trimble camp.

Crucial tests will come when, for example, Mr Trimble has to decide whether to serve alongside Sinn Fein on the new executive. The Good Friday agreement appears to require him to do so, but if and when he does so the Paisleyite cries of betrayal will reach record decibel levels.

Constructing a new polity was never going to be easy: this election result has posed a whole new set of questions of whether it can be done - and guaranteed years of continuing uncertainty.

Leading article, Section 2, page 4

Results

ANTRIM EAST

Ken Robinson (UUP) 6,275

Roy Beggs Junior (UUP) 5,764

Sean Neeson (Alliance) 5,247

David Hilditch (DUP) 5,215

Roger Hutchinson (UKU) 4,220

Danny O'Connor (SDLP) 4,191

Electorate 59,313; Turnout 36,103 (60.87%)

ANTRIM NORTH

Rev Ian Paisley (DUP) 10,590

Sean Farren (SDLP) 8,300

Rev Robert Coulter (UUP) 7,832

James Leslie (UUP) 7,580

Ian Paisley Junior (DUP) 7,551

Gardiner Kane (DUP) 5,818

E 73,247; T 50,561 (69.03%)

ANTRIM SOUTH

Wilson Clyde (DUP) 8,522

Duncan Shipley-Dalton (UUP) 6,965

Jim Wilson (UUP) 6,691

Donovan McClelland (SDLP) 6,384

Norman Boyd (UKU) 6,381

David Ford (Alliance) 5,655

E 69,426; T 44,599 (64.24%)

BELFAST EAST

Peter Robinson (DUP) 11,219

Lord Alderdice (Alliance) 6,144

Reg Empey (UUP) 6,109

David Ervine (PUP) 5,693

Sammy Wilson (DUP) 5,711

Ian Adamson (UUP) 5,415

E 60,562; T 40,356; (66.64%)

BELFAST NORTH

Gerry Kelly (SF) 8,793

Nigel Dodds (DUP) 7,476

Alban Maginness (SDLP) 6,196

Billy Hutchinson (PUP) 5,517

Fred Cobain (UUP) 5,114

William Agnew (UU) 4,971

E 62,541; T 42,066 (67.26%)

BELFAST SOUTH

Mark Robinson (DUP) 6,524

Michael McGimpsey (UUP) 5,898

Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP) 5,963

Esmond Birnie (UUP) 5,881

Prof Monica McWilliams (NI Women) 5,277

Mrs Carmel Hanna (SDLP) 4,983

E 61,209; T 41,266 (67.42%)

BELFAST WEST

Gerry Adams (SF) 9,078

Miss Sue Ramsey (SF) 7,371

Miss Bairbre De Brun (SF) 6,994

Alex Maskey (SF) 6,328

Dr Joe Hendron (SDLP) 6,140

Alex Attwood (SDLP) 5,350

E 60,669; T 42,754 (70.47%)

DOWN NORTH

Robert McCartney (UKU) 8,188

Alan McFarland (UUP) 5,466

Mrs Eileen Bell (Alliance) 5,985

John Gorman (UUP) 5,346

Ms Jane Morrice (NI Women) 4,898

Peter Weir (UUP) 4,751

E 62,942; T 37,874 (60.17%)

DOWN SOUTH

Eddie McGrady (SDLP) 10,373

Jim Wells (DUP) 8,170

Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 7,770

Mick Murphy (SF) 7,761

Patrick Bradley (SDLP) 7,390

Eamon O'Neill (SDLP) 6,163

E 71,027; T 52,342 (73.69%)

FERMANAGH AND TYRONE

Gerry McHugh (SF) 9,096

Ms Michelle Gildernew (SF) 8,501

Tommy Gallagher (SDLP) 8,135

Sam Foster (UUP) 7,494

Maurice Morrow (DUP) 6,595

Joan Carson (UUP) 6,141

E 65,383; T 51,923 (79.41%)

FOYLE

John Hume (SDLP) 12,581

Mitchel McLaughlin (SF) 7,243

Mark Durkan (SDLP) 6,980

John Tierney (SDLP) 7,813

Mrs Mary Nelis (SF) 7,172

William Hay (DUP) 6,322

E 68,888; T 49,604 (72.01%)

LAGAN VALLEY

Edwin Poots (DUP) 7,642

Ivan Davis (UUP) 7,322

Patrick Roche (UKU) 6,859

Seamus Close (Alliance) 6,788

Billy Bell (UUP) 6,679

Ms Patricia Lewsley (SDLP) 6,282

E 71,661; T 47,074 (65.69%)

LONDONDERRY EAST

Arthur Doherty (SDLP) 7,754

David McClarty (UUP) 6,268

Gregory Campbell (DUP) 6,099

John Dallat (SDLP) 5,708

Mrs Pauline Armitage (UUP) 5,379

Boyd Douglas (Unionist) 4,259

E 59,370; T 39,492 (66.52%)

NEWRY AND ARMAGH

Seamus Mallon (SDLP) 13,582

Danny Kennedy (UUP) 10,184

Paul Berry (DUP) 7,900

Conor Murphy (SF) 7,741

Pat McNamee (SF) 7,177

John Fee (SDLP) 7,169

E 71,553; T 55,293 (77.28%

STRANGFORD

Mrs Iris Robinson (DUP) 9,479

John Taylor (UUP) 9,203

Thomas Benson (UUP) 6,327

Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) 6,202

Jim Shannon (DUP) 5,933

Cedric Wilson (UKU) 4,804

E 70,868; T 43,651 (61.59%)

TYRONE WEST

Derek Hussey (UUP) 8,446

Oliver Gibson (DUP) 8,015

Pat Doherty (SF) 7,027

Joe Byrne (SDLP) 6,705

Barry McElduff (SF) 5,993

Eugene McMenamin (SDLP) 5,791

E 59,081; T 46,913 (79.40%)

ULSTER MID

Rev William McCrea (DUP) 10,339

Martin McGuinness (SF) 8,703

Billy Armstrong (UUP) 7,467

Francie Molloy (SF) 7,076

Denis Haughey (SDLP) 6,769

John Kelly (SF) 5,901

E 59,991; T 51,223 (85.38%)

UPPER BANN

David Trimble (UUP) 12,338

Ms Brid Rodgers (SDLP) 9,260

Mervyn Carrick (DUP) 8,035

Denis Watson (UUU) 7,792

Ms Dara O'Hagan (SF) 7,413

George Savage (UUP) 6,527

E 70,852; T 50,399 (71.13%)

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