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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK

Influential unionist campaigns for No vote
image: [ Donaldson: PM has failed to win him over ]
Donaldson: PM has failed to win him over

Campaigners for a No vote in Friday's Northern Ireland referendum received a boost when the influential Ulster Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson said he remained their camp.

Jeffrey Donaldson says the Prime Minister cannot change the agreement (2' 04")
Mr Donaldson, who walked out of the Stormont talks before the political agreement was completed on Good Friday, said that the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to deal with his concerns.

He comments came as the former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Molyneaux said he would also be voting against the agreement.

Mr Blair is reported to have tailored the entire contents of his last major speech on the province to answer critical issues put down in a letter by Mr Donaldson.

[ image: No campaigners believe they have gained ground among Unionists]
No campaigners believe they have gained ground among Unionists
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Donaldson said the prospect of released paramilitary inmates gaining power in the province meant he would be voting No.

"The unionist community have increasing concerns about the agreement, particularly the release of prisoners to become ministers in a government in Northern Ireland. Those are real concerns," he said.

The Stormont agreement failed to offer cast iron guarantees that paramilitaries would be required to give up arms and renounce violence before their representatives would be allowed to become ministers, he said.

"The core requirements are missing, that before people like Sinn Fein and the IRA can become ministers, the IRA must declare that the campaign of violence is over and has engaged in decommissioning of weapons."

Mr Donaldson denied he would be creating a divide within the Ulster Unionist Party.

"I'm not alone - it's not me who's splitting the party. There are already divisions," he said.

Flagging support among MPs

Mr Donaldson is a key figure in a group of Ulster Unionist MPs who have refused to toe the line laid down by leader David Trimble.

Mr Trimble hopes for the support of 70% of his party at the ballot box but six of the UUP's 10 MPs are still refusing to back the political settlement.

[ image: Mr Donaldson walked out of the talks before they were completed]
Mr Donaldson walked out of the talks before they were completed
Apart from Mr Donaldson, William Ross, William Thompson, Roy Beggs, Clifford Forsythe and Rev Martin Smyth say the deal is unacceptable.

Friday's referendum will see the six vote No at the ballot box - putting them in the same camp as breakaway republican groups.

Mr Donaldson said: "The prospect of having Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness become ministers in Northern Ireland, I cannot support that.

"Neither can I support the premature release of prisoners, some of whom are mass murderers.

"I don't think that the people in England, Scotland or Wales would want the representatives of terrorism in their government without the terrorists ending their campaign of violence, so why should we."

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