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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
'No surprises' in store for Trimble
Unionists have now returned to work at Stormont
Unionists have now returned to work at Stormont
BBC NI political correspondent Mark Simpson looks ahead to a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Party executive on Saturday.

It would be an enormous surprise if the executive did anything other than give their overwhelming backing to David Trimble.

Outside his own family, it is difficult to imagine a group of people who have been more supportive of him in recent years.

The key thing to look out for will, however, be exactly what resolution is passed by the executive.

For instance, will it explicitly instruct all Ulster Unionist assembly members to back Mr Trimble for first minister next week and therefore make their non-compliance effectively an expulsion issue?

On Friday, I spoke personally to the two possible "rebels" Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage.

Both told me they had yet to make up their minds about which way they would vote in next week's planned election for first minister.

Similar mind

Clearly, the more supportive the executive of the party leader, the more pressure will be heaped on the shoulders of Mr Weir and Mrs Armitage.

It is significant that the anti-agreement Ulster Unionist MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, is unlikely to be at the meeting on Saturday as he is in Australia.

Those of a similar mind in the party say what has annoyed them in recent days, is that Mr Trimble called a meeting of the executive, rather than the larger 860-strong Ulster Unionist council.

And some believe that no matter what happens on Saturday, an attempt will be made at some stage to take the issue of sharing power with Sinn Fein back to another meeting of the council.

David Trimble: Met the general on Tuesday
David Trimble: Focus will shift to executive meeting

Jeffrey Donaldson and south Antrim MP David Burnside have both said publicly that the party's return to government should be conditional on more IRA decommissioning, and on the fact that the international decommissioning commission's remit runs out in February next year.

In other words, they want unionist participation in the executive linked directly to the completion of decommissioning within the next five months.

Those close to David Trimble say he has no intention of writing Sinn Fein a blank cheque in political terms, and that he will continue to monitor the decommissioning situation.

However, it seems unlikely that he will formally tie himself to the February deadline.

As ever in Ulster Unionist politics, not everyone in the party is singing from the same hymn sheet.


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See also:

24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble's ministers to return
23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Tony Blair's statement in full
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
US congratulates IRA on 'historic' decision
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Bush welcomes IRA arms move
24 Oct 01 | World
World press review
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