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Thursday, May 21, 1998 Published at 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK


No camp rejects Blair campaign

No campaigners hope people will join their bandwagon

Supporters of the No campaign in Northern Ireland have urged voters not to be swayed by promises from the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has been visiting the province to campaign for a Yes vote.

The Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, rejected Mr Blair's pledge that anyone who uses or threatens violence will be thrown out of the proposed assembly.

The UK Unionist leader, Robert McCartney, said the public should not be persuaded to support the Good Friday agreement by any last minute pledges or reassurances from Mr Blair.

Mr McCartney said voters would be voting purely on the agreement and not on pledges made by Mr Blair.

"We will not be voting on anything outside this agreement - not letters of support, not promised legislation, not pledges by the prime minister."

He said the agreement was a multi-party document which could not be altered unilaterally by any party or anyone, including Mr Blair.

Unanswered questions


[ image: William Ross:
William Ross: "large constitutional issues"
The Ulster Unionist MP, William Ross, who is also backing the No campaign, says important questions remained to be answered - and in particular some of the less emotional ones.

"The questions of prisoners, policemen and the other emotional ones are only part of it. There are very large constitutional issues here which have slipped down the scale this last day or two.

"Some people seem to be implying because they haven_t been mentioned we have forgotten them. They are still very much to the forefront of our concern."

Voters in towns which were visited on Wednesday evening by high profile Yes campaigners also voiced their opposition.

One woman in Coleraine, which is in Mr Ross's constituency, said she is planning to vote No, despite Mr Blair's visit there.

She said: "Unless we are told the terrorists will be dealt with I think most people here will vote No. We don't want our country run by terrorists from either side.

"People here don't give a damn about Tony Blair coming to visit. People just want to be left alone without interference from Britain or America."

No vote finds backing

Support for the No campaign was also voiced by Betty Harrison from Bangor, County Down, which was visited by the Conservative leader, William Hague.

She said: "My husband was in the Royal Marines during the war. He used to say, wherever you go if you see the Union Jack flying it's for freedom. I just think we'll have far less of a say in the running of our country if this agreement goes through."

Her views were echoed by fellow resident Beatrice Grey: "I don't want an all Ireland - I'm British and I want to remain ruled by the British. Don't get me wrong, I like the people in the south - I've been there on holiday. But we are British people here and we want to stay that way," she said.

The local Conservative association in Bangor, which is in Mr McCartney's constituency, also said they opposed the agreement despite the visit of their leader.

"It's a dreadful deal. It's undemocratic, immoral and it's not going to deliver peace," said association chairman Leonard Fee.

"Personally I don't understand how, with the Conservative party's history, he can advance this document. It flies in the face of everything the Conservative party has been building."

Mr Hague was philosophical about the opposition from the association. "I'm not a dictator. They are entitled to their views," he said.

On Wednesday the head of the DUP, Rev Ian Paisley, said the No campaign did not trust the government. He said they would be putting their own seal on all 1,228 ballot boxes to be used in the referendum.

"They've stooped to every dirty trick in the book. We are even going to sit and watch them all night to make sure there is no nonsense. There will be no skullduggery," he said.



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