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Wednesday, May 13, 1998 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK




The No campaign

The people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are going to the polls to vote on whether to accept the political deal reached on April 10 at Stormont. The question those in the North are being asked is "Do you support the agreement reached in the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?"

The No campaign is spearheaded by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the second largest unionist party, who view the agreement as a betrayal of the union. They have been joined by other unionist groups, the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP); rebel Ulster Unionist MPs and the Orange Order.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum are dissident republicans who also oppose the settlement, viewing it as a sell-out which will split the republican movement. The republican parties opposing the agreement are the 32-County Sovereignty Committee and Republican Sinn Fein.

Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP gained 14% of the Northern Ireland vote at the general election and has two MPs, the party leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, and Peter Robinson. The DUP walked out of the peace talks when Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, was allowed to join.

The party is at the forefront of the No campaign. Dr Paisley has said the agreement is "treacherous" and has called on all unionists to reject it.

"This is a complete and total sell-out of the province. The reaction of ordinary unionists is outrage and amazement. This is a struggle for the very lifeblood of the union and the future of the province," he said.

Mr Robinson said: "This agreement signals a seamless and progressive process leading to a united Ireland. Ulster people are not fools. They will know, with murderers being released from prison and elevated to ministerial posts, that the union is far from secure. Unionists from every party must band together to stop this drive towards a united Ireland."

Some of the main points in the agreement that the DUP objects to are: plans for Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to be members of a new Northern Ireland Assembly; that there is no insistence on decommissioning of weapons by the IRA before Sinn Fein becomes part of the new government; and the planned release of what it calls "terrorist" prisoners in the next two years.

United Kingdom Unionist Party

The UKUP was set up in 1995 and polled 1.6% in the general election. It is led by Robert McCartney, its sole MP and a former member of the UUP. The UKUP walked out of the talks when it became clear Sinn Fein was about to join.

Mr McCartney has vowed to fight a "vigorous and confident campaign" against the agreement, which he views as the first step towards a united Ireland.

He said his party's opposition to the peace deal does not mean it is against establishing "a fair and lasting peace", but he said that the agreement would result in even worse violence and prevent any reconciliation between people in Northern Ireland.

Mr McCartney said that the peace deal serves to increase the powers of the Republican movement in Northern Ireland by allowing them to retain weapons, have prisoners released and through reducing the effect of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Rebel Ulster Unionist MPs

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, may have around 70% of his party backing the peace deal, but some of the most vociferous unionist opposition comes from within the UUP itself.

Of the UUP's 10 MPs, six have refused to support the deal. They are: William Ross, William Thompson, Roy Beggs, Clifford Forsythe, Jeffrey Donaldson and Rev Martin Smyth. They say the deal is unacceptable for a number of reasons, including the proposed early release of prisoners and the length of time decommissioning will take.

William Thompson, Ulster Unionist MP for West Tyrone and an outspoken critic of his party's strategy, said: "The agreement means the British Government is telling the unionist people that they are not wanted anymore."

Jeffrey Donaldson MP and a member of the UUP negotiating team, walked out of the talks in April just before the agreement was signed.

The Orange Order

Members of the Protestant Orange Order voted last month to reject the Stormont agreement. The Order provides 102 delegates to the 800-strong Ulster Unionist Council.

Its leadership has urged its 50,000 members to back the No vote on the deal, after voicing concern on the issues regarding the early release of prisoners, decommissioning and RUC reform.

George Patton, the order's chief executive, said: "Failing clarification of certain issues, we cannot recommend it to the people."

The Orange Order was founded in 1795 and named after the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. Every year, the order holds parades to show its allegiance to the crown and to Protestant beliefs.

Republican Sinn Fein

Republican Sinn Fein is a breakaway republican group, splintered from Sinn Fein.

The party is made up of hardline republicans, and the basis of their struggle is for a 32-county Irish Republic. They have always maintained their loyalty to the 'Gospel of Republicanism', as they call it - no negotiation until British withdrawal is on the table.

Therefore, they not only reject the peace agreement but the referendum itself. They believe that any elections after 1918, the last all-Ireland elections in which the majority of MPs elected were Sinn Fein, are invalid as they have taken place within the framework of partition.

The 32-County Sovereignty Committee

The 32-County Sovereignty Committee is another breakaway republican group, made up of dissident members of Sinn Fein. One of its leaders is Bernadette Sands McKevitt, the sister of Bobby Sands, the first IRA man to die of hunger strike in Maze in 1981.

Long-time campaigners for the republican movement, the committee has denounced Sinn Fein for backing the agreement.

The committee was formed three months ago following resignations in republican ranks over the peace process. It upholds the 1919 Declaration of Independence and opposes "any party which accepts British rule in any form."






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