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Monday, April 20, 1998 Published at 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK




Trimble prepares 'yes' peace campaign
image: [ A woman walks past grafitti in support of the Ulster Unionist leader on the Shankill Road, west Belfast ]
A woman walks past grafitti in support of the Ulster Unionist leader on the Shankill Road, west Belfast

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, is preparing to unveil his campaign for a "yes" vote in next month's Northern Ireland referendum.

Senior UUP members are meeting to work out the party's strategy for the run-up to polling on May 22.


[ image: David Trimble believes a clear majority of Northern Ireland must approve the peace deal]
David Trimble believes a clear majority of Northern Ireland must approve the peace deal
As Sinn Fein put off its decision on whether to accept the deal on Sunday, one Ulster Unionist insider said: "Tomorrow is day one of our campaign. We will also be working out how we handle elections to the Assembly after the referendum."

Mr Trimble, who won 72% backing for the deal from the Ulster Unionist Council at the weekend, said he wanted to see a clear majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in favour.

"It would not be enough to have the narrow majority they had in Wales," he said. "If the "yes" vote is below 60% I think we are in difficulty. If we get a "yes" vote over 70% we are fine."

Mr Trimble also hit out at Sinn Fein for attempting to cherry pick with the agreement.

At its annual conference in Dublin, Sinn Fein postponed a decision on whether accept the deal. The party's president, Gerry Adams, promised a clear "yes" or "no" verdict when the decision finally came.


[ image: Tory leader William Hague is likely to take up Mr Blair's invitation to share a platform with him]
Tory leader William Hague is likely to take up Mr Blair's invitation to share a platform with him
Meanwhile, Tony Blair is set to invite Tory leader William Hague and Liberal Democrat chief Paddy Ashdown to share a platform with him in Northern Ireland days before the referendum.

The invitation, which is certain to be accepted by both leaders, will amount to a political union unparalleled in recent political memory.

Not even in 1975, when there was some cross-party consensus on the referendum on continued European Community membership, did leaders of three parties share a platform.


[ image: Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown will also join the push for peace]
Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown will also join the push for peace
Mr Blair will undoubtedly believe that such a show of unity behind the peace process will give the agreement considerable momentum. He predicted that "the tide is turning" after the Ulster Unionist vote at the weekend.

The Prime Minister sought to reassure unionists that the surrender of terrorist weapons remained a priority.

"Once you have an agreement in place, people will want to see there is a genuine commitment to non-violent means, and decommissioning is an aspect of that," said Mr Blair.

'No positive proposals'

He also aimed a broadside at DUP leader Ian Paisley's unflinching opposition to the Stormont agreement.

"The position of Ian Paisley and others is to sit there hoping the whole thing fails ... They don't want it to succeed, they want it to fail.

"They haven't an alternative, there are no positive proposals at all to put forward from their side, and people in Northern Ireland have just got to make up their minds.

"Is this the person that offers the way forward in the future or not? Obviously I wouldn't think so."








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