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Ulster Unionist trade minister Sir Reg Empey
Ulster Unionists have taken leap of faith into government with republicans
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SDLP finance minister Mark Durkan
"Our position is nothing to do with public relations - we must get policing right"
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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 18:14 GMT
Unease 'growing' among unionists
Pro-agreement poster in run-up to referendum
Warning of growing scepticism over implementation of accord
A dissident Ulster Unionist MP has suggested there was growing scepticism within the party against the Good Friday Agreement.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the selection of David Burnside as the party's candidate for South Antrim indicated unease about the way the 1998 accord was being implemented.

"That is not just the case in South Antrim but right across Northern Ireland there is increasing discontent when people see concessions to the republican movement," he said.

David Burnside: Won selection race
David Burnside: Selection 'seen' as blow to David Trimble
The decision by South Antrim Ulster Unionists on Friday to re-select Mr Burnside, who lost party's second safest seat to the DUP in the by-election last September, is seen as a blow for leader David Trimble.

Mr Burnside defeated the pro-Agreement candidate Jim Wilson, who is the party's chief whip in the assembly.

Debate is ongoing within the party over whether to continue power-sharing with Sinn Fein without what they regard as progress on the issue of IRA decommissioning.

On Friday, Mr Trimble said he would be consulting with grassroots members of the party to canvas their views but warned of negative consequences if there was no progress on dismantling the republican paramilitary arsenal.

However, he was warned by Mr Donaldson there could be "no room for procrastination or further delay" on the weapons issue.

"I think people have grown weary of the many ways this issue has been fudged.

"There has to be clarity and certainty as to how the IRA is going to decommission its weapons after two-and-a-half years of delay."

The latest tensions within the Ulster Unionist party come as nationalists have stepped up their pressure on the policing issue.

Angry response

Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have refused to nominate representatives to sit on the Police Board which is to oversee the reformed service.

They believe the government has diluted reforms recommended by the Independent Commission on Policing headed by Chris Patten on issues such as emblems, the Special Branch and the secretary of state's powers to halt inquiries.

Sinn Fein's education minister Martin McGuinness called for amendments to the Police Act to bridge what he argued was a gap between it and the Patten recommendations.

Mr McGuinness told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost that nationalists and republicans were "anxious" to see the political institutions work.

"Tremendous work has been done and we want to keep that going," he said.

SDLP leader John Hume
John Hume: Offended by Peter Mandelson remark
The nationalist SDLP, meanwhile, is preparing for more talks with the Government and RUC this week as it faces renewed pressure to participate in the province's new policing structures.

Party leader John Hume reacted angrily on Sunday to suggestions his party's refusal to endorse police reforms was driven by electoral considerations.

The Foyle MP described as offensive the claim by Secretary of State Peter Mandelson last week.

Mr Hume's comments were in response to Mr Mandelson's appeal to the SDLP "not to torpedo the peace process by delaying the police reforms" in the Police Act.

Mr Hume said on Sunday: "The line being peddled to newspapers by those who oppose our views holds absolutely no water whatsoever".

He said the SDLP would not hesitate in going to the people of Northern Ireland to say "this policing service will work to all our benefit" - but only when it believed this was so."

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson claim angers SDLP
13 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
SDLP accused of 'double standards'
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