Anger flares in attacks by rival Unionists

Ulster poll: Trimble clashes with fellow contenders as fears grow of a splintered vote

David McKittrick
Monday 27 May 1996 23:02
Comments

The previously low-key Northern Ireland election campaign finally flared into life yesterday as angry attacks and recriminations broke out among the major unionist parties.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday to elect a 110-member forum, which will supply most of the negotiators for the inter-party talks due to open on 10 June.

The outbreak of verbal jousting appears to have its origin in worries within David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party that its campaign is not going well. Reports are circulating that rival parties, principally the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and Robert McCartney's UK Unionists, are making a strong showing.

A poor performance for Mr Trimble would represent a serious blow to his credibility, in that he is regarded as the prime mover in pressing the Government to hold the election in the first place.

The various parties involved sought to portray rivals as being unsound on the issue of the union.

Mr Trimble's party yesterday called a news conference to warn voters against fracturing the Unionist vote, in the process launching a strong attack on Mr Paisley. John Taylor MP accused the DUP of "playing straight into the hands of Dublin", while Mr Trimble said Mr Paisley had formed an unholy alliance with John Hume's Social Democratic and Labour Party for the purpose of doing down the Ulster Unionists.

Mr Paisley, in a swift response, accused Mr Trimble of selling the pass by, he said, being prepared to put the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which set up the state of Northern Ireland, on the negotiating table.

He said that Mr Trimble "dreaded" the DUP, adding: "He's not happy because he's losing out in this election."

Mr McCartney, of the smaller UK Unionists, said that Mr Trimble had turned down his suggestion of a united unionist front to fight the elections. Mr Trimble retorted: "Mr McCartney doesn't tell you that he broke off the discussion and rushed out of the door, pausing only to discharge an epithet in my direction."

With almost a dozen pro-union parties standing in the election, one Unionist nightmare scenario is that the vote would splinter in such a way that the SDLP could, for the first time ever, win most votes.

While not affecting any future negotiations, such an outcome would represent a major psychological setback for Unionism.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in