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Dagger in a friend's hand

The people I represent, more than any others, deserve peace and stability. They are the most wronged, persecuted and vilified people in the civilised world. For a quarter of a century, they have refused to bow to terrorism and many have paid for it with their life's blood. They have been bombed and shot at, bullied and blackmailed, yet even in their darkest hour, they held on to their cherished membership of the British family.

Being British, for them, was no nominal condition. Their citizenship was under attack, but that danger only caused them to cling more tightly to their Britishness. A dagger wielded by the hand of a friend is the cruellest cut of all and they now see, once again, a Tory Prime Minister betraying loyal Ulster.

The process is clear. It is to bring about a United Ireland, incrementally and by stealth. This week's published Framework Document offers no Union- strengthening option. It is entirely a nationalist agenda for bringing about a united Ireland. We are told rejection of this proposal could end the peace process. As if we, who have been the victims of violence, would be responsible for the terrorists starting up again because we refuse to surrender.

Politicians have a duty to talk, but it would be an irresponsible politician who would sit down at a negotiating table if the agenda excluded any outcome that would be satisfactory to those he represents. It would be an even more foolish politician who would sit down at a negotiating table knowing that the other negotiators had previously pledged themselves to a predetermined outcome.

For the Unionist community of Northern Ireland, this document confirms their worst fears - that they are no longer wanted and that their Government no longer has any selfish, strategic or economic interest in them.

I do not point an accusing finger at Gerry Adams, John Hume or John Bruton. They are acting out their republican role. Just as a dog barks and a pig grunts, I expect nothing else from them, but when I hear John Major proclaim that he is a Unionist while taking an axe to the root of the Union, I find it hard to come to terms with such nauseating hypocrisy. Mr Major's framework is for an all-Ireland structure with executive power, which will be a precursor to a united Ireland.

Mr Major knows the principle behind this proposal well - it is based on the European modus operandi. Just as in the EU, two territories are brought together and in a number of practical, functional ways, they are treated as one.

They are told that it is for economic reasons or for better co-operation, but the truth is that it is to bring about a political union. I trust that those in the Tory party who would give their last drop of blood in the fight against European union will show no less vigour in defending the rights of loyal Ulster.

The writer is deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and the MP for Belfast East