Category: Archive

Trimble faces new challenge

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Trimble has given a qualified acceptance of the document, while rejecting some of its proposals, such as aspects of demilitarization and the conditional amnesty for “on the run” republican suspects.
Jeffrey Donaldson, who is leading the anti-agreement charge, has threatened to resign from the UUP should the council “fudge” the issue. He claims to have at least 50 percent support for rejecting the Joint Declaration.
He is focusing on two issues: reports that the Royal Irish Regiment’s three Northern Ireland-based battalions would be disbanded and proposals for the body to impose sanctions on any party breaking its pledges under the Good Friday agreement.
The UUP had wanted sanctions to penalize Sinn Fein for alleged breaches of the IRA ceasefire, but the two governments are proposing an independent body that would, arguably, give Dublin an input into its mechanisms.
Donaldson said that this is an unwarranted Dublin interference in the internal workings of the Stormont Assembly and that it undermines a key unionist principle of not accepting any power or influence for the Irish government in government north of the border.
The proposed sanctions body would comprise three members, one nominated by London, one from the U.S. and one from Dublin. It would decide whether any party should be punished and the level of punishment.
The row over the future of the RIR, however, was used by Donaldson to gain the 60 signatures required for the holding of an Ulster Unionist Council meeting.
In a bid to pre-empt an 800-strong UUC meeting, Trimble called a meeting last Friday of the party’s 100-strong executive, over which he has greater influence. It demanded the British government end speculation that the RIR’s three home battalions are to be disbanded.
The UUP approved the resolution by 74 votes to 3 against with 21 abstentions. It voted down, however, a Donaldson proposal to link the resolution to rejecting the Joint Declaration outright.
The party backed Trimble’s resolution, stating it would be “impossible” for the UUP to reach any further agreement with the governments until the matter was resolved.
It’s widely believed that the British government will announce a climb-down over the RIR this week, in a bid to boost Trimble’s fortunes as he prepares for the June 16 UUC meeting — another example of what some nationalists call Britain’s “Save Dave” strategy.
Last week, the British Ministry of Defense played down reports about the RIR, with sources emphasizing that no cuts would be made until the IRA declared its war was over and decommissioned its weaponry.
The Rev. Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party has accused the UUP of “being caught red handed in the destruction of the RIR.” Deputy leader Peter Robinson said: “No longer is the split in that party merely confined to pro- and anti-agreement wrangles. The Ulster Unionist Party has completely fractured and is now without doubt a lost cause.”
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness criticized the government’s anticipated U-turn, saying the RIR was a unionist militia that had colluded in the murders of nationalists and could play no part in the future of a peaceful Northern Ireland.

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