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John Taylor:
"The new Police Board post will be time-consuming so I have to give up something"
 real 28k

BBC NI political editor Stephen Grimason:
"John Taylor is unlikely to retire completely from politics"
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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 23:14 GMT
Senior unionist to stand down
John Taylor beat Irish Robinson by 6,000 votes in 1997 General election
Has Taylor handed his seat to the DUP by bowing out?
Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has announced that he will step down from his parliamentary seat at the next election.

The Strangford MP told his shocked constituency association of the decision at a meeting in Newtownards, County Down, on Monday evening.

Mr Taylor said he was withdrawing his candidacy because his current workload was too demanding.

The deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Parliamentary Party said he wanted to concentrate on the Northern Ireland Assembly and a new position as a UUP representative on the Police Board.

He said: "That particular position in Northern Ireland requires me to be a member of the assembly.

"It will be very time-consuming and so I have to give up something and since it can't be the assembly, it must be Westminster.

"After 18 happy years representing Strangford at Westminster, and ten years earlier at Strasbourg, I am very sad about it, but one must face up to realities."
David Trimble
David Trimble would be left more isolated if Taylor stood down

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble paid tribute to Mr Taylor's work as an MP and welcomed his decision to accept the post on the Police Board, which is to be formed to oversee Northern Ireland's new police service.

However, Mr Taylor's decision to stand down from the seat which he has held since 1983, could prove a further blow to Mr Trimble's leadership of the party.

Another strong supporter of the increasingly embattled leader, Ken Maginnis, announced at the beginning of January that for personal reasons he would not stand again for his Fermanagh/ South Tyrone parliamentary seat at the election - expected to be held as early as April.

Mr Taylor, while initially expressing some scepticism that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal could be implemented, was an influential supporter of Mr Trimble's policies during meetings of the party's ruling Ulster Unionist Council at key moments in the peace process.

DUP challenge

The UUP Foreign Affairs and International Development spokesman won the Strangford seat with a 6,000 vote majority over the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party's candidate Iris Robinson in the 1997 General Election.

However, that was before the Good Friday Agreement split unionism, and Mrs Robinson had already expressed high hopes of taking the seat at the next election.

Mr Taylor's decision could further shake the pro-agreement faction of the UUP.

The party lost its formerly safe South Antrim seat to the DUP's William McCrea in the September 2000 by-election.

This followed another blow to the pro-agreement section of the party when anti-agreement assembly member Peter Weir was selected to fight the general election for North Down.

The most experienced politician in the new Stormont assembly, Mr Taylor was a minister in the old Northern Ireland parliament and also served 10 years as an MEP.

UUP Strangford constituency chairman Jim Hamilton keen to take nomination

The up-coming General Election will put the UUP under pressure to find a replacement candidate capable of defending his seat against the DUP.

The re-selection meeting is to be held on 5 March.

Jim Hamilton, chairman of the Strangford association, who stood against Mr Taylor in the candidacy selection, has already expressed an interest.

Names of other possible contenders include Stormont arts and culture minister Michael McGimpsey who was brought up in the Strangford area, David McNarry, a leading Orangeman, and the former RUC chief constable's wife Lady Sylvia Herman, who was unsuccessful in securing the North Down candidacy.

Pro-agreement boost

Meanwhile, in a boost for the pro-agreement faction of the UUP, James Cooper won the General Election candidate selection battle for the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat vacated by Mr Maginnis.

James Cooper: Pro-agreement candidate won selection battle

Mr Cooper beat outspoken anti-agreement assembly member Arlene Foster by just nine votes, polling 178 votes to 169. A lawyer in the same office where Mrs Foster is also a solicitor, Mr Cooper was Mr Maginnis's election agent.

Mr Maginnis had a 13,688 majority at the last Westminster election.

However, the DUP is proposing to challenge for the seat for the first time since the unionist parties established an election pact aimed at keeping a nationalist candidate out.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson indicated at the weekend that his party's candidate Maurice Morrow would only withdraw if the UUP constituency chose an anti-agreement candidate.

David Trimble was reselected in his Upper Bann constituency on Monday evening. There were no other nominations.

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See also:

08 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Race on for Maginnis successor
28 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
DUP not contesting anti-accord seats
05 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionist MP to stand down
02 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble may face 'no confidence' vote
29 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Are the knives out for David Trimble?
19 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionist quits poll contest
15 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
UUP chief whip denied candidacy
16 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Ulster Unionist candidacy row
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