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The BBC's James Rodgers
"Mr Trimble said he had resigned to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement could be fully implemented"
 real 28k

NI First Minister David Trimble
announces his resignation
 real 56k

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Thiepval
"He certainly says he's not indulging in gesture politics"
 real 56k

The BBC's Denis Murray in Belfast
"I don't think Republicans are going to do anything to help David Trimble"
 real 56k

Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon MLA
"I have to say it was a misjudgement on his part"
 real 56k

The BBC's Bethan Rhys-Roberts
reports on Mr Trimble's difficult political career
 real 28k

Sunday, 1 July, 2001, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Trimble resigns over arms row
David Trimble
David Trimble has resigned as first minister
David Trimble has resigned as Northern Ireland First Minister because he does not believe the IRA is making progress in weapons decommissioning.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader's resignation came into effect at midnight on Saturday as his deadline for decommissioning by the IRA on 30 June elapsed.

His move means that the future of the Northern Ireland's peace process has been thrown into uncertainty.

Mr Trimble announced his decision to resign at the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May, when he told assembly colleagues that he would not continue in office if the IRA failed to deliver on decommissioning their weapons.

On Saturday, Mr Trimble nominated party colleague and trade minister Sir Reg Empey to fulfil the administrative functions of the office of first minister.

Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey will take over Mr Trimble's duties

The assembly now has six weeks to re-install Mr Trimble or replace him before the devolved institutions collapse under legislation brought in under the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Reg said his party leader had no choice but to resign as others failed to live up to their commitments and that he would not be leading his party into further talks with Sinn Fein, until the IRA began to disarm.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was sorry to hear of Mr Trimble's resignation but hoped he would soon be reinstated as First Minister.

Further talks aimed at finding a way through the current impasse in the peace process are due to be held next week.

Similar talks held in recent weeks have failed to move the stalled process forward.

Speaking ahead of the next stage of negotiations, Sir Reg said his party would not be re-entering government with Sinn Fein "without IRA arms up front".

He said: "As far as I am concerned we have been down that road, we have tried our best, and it is perfectly clear that unless people are prepared to honour their commitments we are certainly not going into the breach a third time."

Jeffrey Donaldson, a member of the UUP talks team, said he believed Mr Trimble's resignation was "essential to bring the decommissioning issue to a head".

The peace process will now be tested as never before

Jeffrey Donaldson
"The peace process will now be tested as never before in terms of establishing whether the IRA are committed to peace or whether they want to hold on to the weapons of war," he said.

Mr Trimble will lose the trappings of office - power, chauffeur-driven car, attendants and title.

His decision to resign has also put the deputy first minister, Seamus Mallon, out of office.

The two ministers are elected jointly and though the SDLP leader has lost his office, he may continue to carry out the duties of deputy first minister until both posts are re-elected in the next six weeks.

The IRA are demanding changes to the policing legislation and demilitarisation as the price of disarmament.

If a deal is negotiated in the coming weeks, it will need to be approved by a majority of unionist and nationalist assembly members.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble threatens to resign
30 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Sir Reg Empey: A profile
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Arms deadline coincides with political crisis
29 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Testing the Trimble power vacuum
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Blair determined to find NI deal
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble warns of assembly collapse
24 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA urged to move on arms
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