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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 15:53 GMT
Peter Weir: The barrister rebel
Peter Weir
Peter Weir: Deselected at the general election
Peter Weir has helped throw Northern Ireland's power-sharing government into fresh crisis after voting with fellow Ulster Unionist rebel Pauline Armitage against David Trimble's attempt to be reinstated as First Minister.

The 32-year-old already has a completely fractured relationship with the party leadership thanks to his de-selection as the North Down candidate in the last general election - a move he fought in the courts.

The party whip had already been withdrawn from Mr Weir after he failed to support Mr Trimble over measures to set up 10 ministerial departments and six cross-border bodies in December 1999.

That split between Mr Weir and his Ulster Unionist colleagues stands in stark contrast to the message of unity he expressed earlier this year when originally chosen to contest the North Down constituency.

Unity call

He said then: "It is important that, as Ulster Unionists, we all move together, that we unite around a strong policy and start to heal within unionism, some of the divisions that have occurred, not just in the last week or two but over the last few years."

But the unmarried barrister from Bangor, Co Down, who lists cricket, reading, music and Manchester United as his interests outside politics, has been a consistent opponent of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Weir was a founding member of Union First, a pressure group within the party with major reservations about the 1998 agreement.

And he has yet to be convinced that Sinn Fein and the IRA are committed to a non-violent future, despite meeting the head of Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), General John de Chastelain.

Unease with Trimble

It is said too that Mr Weir's relationship with Mr Trimble has long been an uneasy one but his vote against the UUP leader's re-election marks the climax of those difficulties.

Last year, Mr Weir was ordered out of the inaugural meeting of a new party grouping, Re-Union, set up to encourage people to play a fuller part in politics.

Mr Trimble told Mr Weir the meeting was private and he had not been officially invited.

The group said it had nothing to do with the ongoing internal party debate between those who favour the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and its opponents.


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See also:

02 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble fails in vote for top post
31 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists in 'useful' talks with arms chief
23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA in arms breakthrough
28 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionist supports Sinn Fein exclusion
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