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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Where now for the Ulster Unionists?

A critical vote by the Ulster Unionist Party's ruling council could threaten the future of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government.

Members of the council will meet on Saturday 28 October in Belfast to discuss the state of the peace process and their frustrations over policing reforms and the lack of progress on decommissioning IRA weapons.

Nationalists and republicans want police reforms implemented in full but unionists feel the proposed changes go too far.

What should the Ulster Unionist Party do now? Do you think it would be a backward step if they withdrew from government over these issues?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I think the process will only work if those involved are committed as much to its spirit as to its letter

Paul Allen, Netherlands
As far as I can see, the peace process suffers from two fundamental flaws; First, it fails to recognise that the people who are involved have contradictory and mutually exclusive goals; Secondly, it assumes that the politicians who signed up to it are fundamentally willing to share Northern Ireland with each other. I think the process will only work if those involved are committed as much to its spirit as to its letter; unfortunately, there is precious little evidence that this is the case.
Paul Allen, British, living in the Netherlands

I have read the previous comments and it frustrates me that so many of the world's population can see the stall tactics of Sinn Fein/ IRA and yet nothing seems to be done about it. The majority of rational minded people in Northern Ireland are sick of this constant petty bickering. The Assembly is a laughing stock with ex-terrorists governing education etc, etc. This is not a laughing matter, it's not about scoring points and it certainly should not be about appeasing terrorists whose propaganda has blinded the world to the real situation here. If they don't hand over weapons now, then scrap the agreement, as I for one have had enough.
Bob Johnston, Northern Ireland

Stop pandering to every Unionist objection and fully implement the Good Friday agreement. I'm sick to death of hearing Unionist politicians prattle on and on about Flag Flying, Parades, and the blatantly (to everyone but the Unionists) Sectarian RUC. The Good Friday agreement was agreed upon so why the continual rehedging? It's time for the Unionist community and their politicians to grow up and form some "Real" policies for the future landscape that will help all the people of the North experience a better quality of life. With greater European integration and the inevitable growth of the "Nationalist" birth rate, it's time for the Unionist community to wake up and smell the roses.
Michael J. O'Connor, USA

The only option to unite the Ulster Unionist party and stabilise the whole situation is a return to No Guns, No Government. By that I mean actual physical destruction of the arms. The usefulness of ambiguity has run its course here as in the Middle East. With an election in May, Unionism needs to unite.
Richard, Northern Ireland

Mr Trimble must avoid another episode like South Antrim

UUC Delegate, Northern Ireland
Mr Trimble must avoid another episode like South Antrim. The electorate have spoken and it's time to listen. It's time to put the pressure back on the IRA. However, it is very important for the UUC to come out of the Waterfront Hall on Saturday as a united party because as the old slogan says, 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall'.
UUC Delegate, Northern Ireland

John Dunston says the majority of people in England want Northern Ireland to be independent. May I ask - when were the people of England asked that in a referendum? The majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement - which affirms Northern Ireland's place in the UK.
Graham, Scotland

As a British patriot, I've always thought that Ulster Unionists should toe the proverbial line, like the Scots. In this case, that means rejoining the power-sharing government. However, the Ulster Unionists won't join any peace-process unless they want peace.
Peter Bolton, UK in US

The so-called "Ulster Unionist Party" should pack their bags cos no country wants:

(a) cowards
(b) traitors or
(c) liars in positions of power.

At least Sinn Fein/ IRA are honest most of the time!
Stephen Brimstone, Northern Ireland

Let's face it the Nationalists want everything, but give nothing back in return. This Labour Government has effectively bowed down to Sinn Fein/ IRA (same thing) terrorism and sold out the Unionists. At the end of the day the holding of arms by both sides is illegal and the UK Government should be brave enough to take all guns out of circulation by force.
Davy, British Isles

I don't envy the task David Trimble has ahead of him but the Assembly can not survive if the UUP decides to give up now and withdraw

John, USA
I left Northern Ireland 12 years ago because of the situation there. It is the same as every other conflict area in the World where you have two opposing factions who are not willing to consider each others point of view. The current situation in Israel is another example. I am a Catholic, but I completely understand the Unionist frustration with Sinn Fein. There has been no decommissioning of IRA weapons and until there is, we will never see trust between the two communities. I don't envy the task David Trimble has ahead of him but the Assembly can not survive if the UUP decides to give up now and withdraw. All the parties owe it to the people to make the peace process work.
John, USA

The British citizens of Northern Ireland did not hesitate to give their lives to defend the UK during the first and second world wars. I am sick to death of little England bigots such as John Dunston suggesting that the residents of Northern Ireland are less deserving of the rule of law than are their fellow citizens resident in England.
Alan Murphy, USA

And yet again, the Unionists are blamed for threatening "the future of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government". The issue is guns. If other parties to this agreement accepted their responsibilities we wouldn't have the situation where the future of the assembly is in the balance. About time the media starting pointing the finger in the right direction.
Roy Chapman, UK

Trimble breached the manifesto commitment on NO GUNS NO GOVERNMENT. The electorate showed what they thought of this betrayal at the recent by-election. UUC delegates should order Trimble to leave the Executive or face removal as Party leader.
Barrie Robertson, Scotland

Since it is clear the IRA are strictly adhering to the "letter of the Good Friday Agreement" The present impasse shows the folly of "private side-agreements" with, in this case a Prime Minister. In the circumstances the unionists can either seek to re-negotiate the GFA or withdraw from the Assembly. I think its a given the nationalists will not allow a renegotiation and I sense many of them now care less and less for the Local Assembly since they know the Republic's input into direct rule will be greater than ever. The other option is to grit their teeth "face down" the rejectionists and make a success of the Assembly. The best option - grit your teeth and get on with delivering against the people's mandate of two years ago.
James W. O'Sullivan, USA

It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to learn to live together

John Dunston, Saudi Arabia
Although like most English people I would like to see Northern Ireland fully independent, I can understand the concerns of the Unionists. They have seen hundreds of convicted killers released back onto the streets to continue their violent lifestyle and New Labour has shown clear bias towards the Catholic minority. I am sorry for them but from an English point of view we are tired of having to foot the bill. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to learn to live together as most people do in the rest of the civilised world and not to keep expecting handouts.
John Dunston, Saudi Arabia

I think that they should try harder to make sure that there is decommissioning of weapons. Republicans can't drag their feet any longer as everyone else has moved forward. There has been movement on all other sections on the Agreement but not the one on decommissioning.
Howard, UK

Sinn Fein and the IRA can stall as often as they like, and still come back for another agreement. But once the Unionists let Sinn Fein start to exercise real power in Northern Ireland, that's for keeps. Unionists would be fools to hand even partial power over as long as the IRA isn't keeping its side of the bargain and handing in its weapons. A once a year "inspection" is worthless.
Jon Livesey, USA

The Ulster Unionists should hold Sinn Fein/IRA and the Labour government to their word. No guns, no government and no Sinn Fein/IRA control of the police.
Alan Murphy, USA

The answer is obvious - pull out of the assembly

Peter Murphy, USA
I think the answer is obvious - pull out of the assembly. The IRA have done nothing worth while to show they are going to give up their weapons of mass murder and Trimble should not hang himself for a wish that will not come.
Peter Murphy, USA

Implement the Pattern report, let the guns quietly rust away and let the British Government support the NI Assembly. Mr. Blair should let the likes of G.Donaldson, who wish to wreck the agreement, be fully aware of the consequences of his actions.
Sean McDonagh, Canada

The Ulster Unionist Party must stay in government for the sake of the people of N.I

William Hamilton, Canada
The Ulster Unionist Party must stay in government for the sake of the people of N.I. The result of pulling out would mean the return of the decision-making to English civil servants and money allocated ending up back in the coffers of Westminster. The Unionist Council must rally around Trimble and stop this insane in-fighting. Donaldson should join the DUP where his heart is - the problem there is he would never get a crack at the leadership (reserved for Paisley Jr).
William Hamilton, Canada

Mandelson and the like keep making so many changes to the original Good Friday Agreement that it's not what we voted on now. What's happened to the links with weapons? The army (I'm ex-forces) have been more or less packed away, the RUC destroyed & terrorists in power, terrorists released from prison & we the public get conned yet again! Where will it stop? I for one have had enough!
Tom Young, Northern Ireland

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See also:

21 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Call for agreement review timetable
17 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Storm brewing on police reforms
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