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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 22:27 GMT
Smyth wins UUP selection battle
Martin Smyth was confident of re-selection
Martin Smyth was confident of re-selection
The Reverend Martin Smyth has won the Ulster Unionist South Belfast General Election candidacy battle against pro-agreement runner Michael McGimpsey.

The selection contest had been another battle between the pro and anti-Good Friday Agreement factions of the party.

Mr Smyth had always maintained that he was confident of winning the party nomination in the constituency he has represented at Westminster for 19 years.

But in the vote at party headquarters in Glengall Street, Stormont sports, culture and arts minister Mr McGimpsey polled 47 votes to Mr Smyth's 60.

Michael McGimpsey pledged
Michael McGimpsey pledged "full support" to Martin Smyth

Last month pro-agreement candidate James Cooper won the nomination for Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

But anti-agreement candidate Peter Weir was selected to fight the General Election for North Down.

The Ulster Unionist selection was being watched with interest by other pro and anti-agreement parties.

In March last year, Mr Smyth unsuccessfully attempted to oust David Trimble as leader of the party, on an anti-agreement platform.

The Democratic Unionist Party had said that if Mr Smyth was not selected, it would stand an anti-agreement candidate in the constituency.

The Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, but strongly pro-agreement, said it may stand candidate on Mr Smyth's selection.

David Ervine said the PUP may stand a candidate
David Ervine said the PUP may stand a candidate
PUP assembly member David Ervine said: "I would find it would be inconceivable that we would let an anti-agreement unionist represent what is an 85% pro-agreement constituency."

But speaking after his selection Mr Smyth told reporters he was confident of victory in the General Election and was not worried by the PUP threat.

He said: "We have seen them off before, we'll see them off again. You have to aknowledge the underdog.

"But unfortunately people can get fed up when they see people claiming to have support that they haven't got and chasing those who have the support.

"I believe that the people of south Belfast will come out strongly with a united Ulster Unionist team."

Mr McGimpsey said he would fully back Mr Smyth as a candidate.

He added: "I look forward to the battle coming up. It will be a difficult battle for us, but I am quite confident that we can do it."

The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, meanwhile, has been watching the situation closely, hoping a number of unionist candidates will split the community's vote and let its candidate Alasdair McDonnell in.

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See also:

08 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Race on for Maginnis successor
23 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Martin Smyth: A hardline challenger?
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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