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Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Unionists face 'morality dilemma'
The British Government has been accused of leaving Ulster Unionists with a "terrible dilemma" following its statement last week on the paramilitary ceasefires.

Sir Reg Empey said his party was being "torn apart" by a desire to keep the political institutions going and the "morality" of power-sharing with Sinn Fein "while the IRA remained active".

Unionists had been calling on the prime minister to place sanctions on Sinn Fein over alleged IRA involvement in paramilitary activity.

But on Wednesday in the House of Commons, Tony Blair stopped short of sanctions, saying any future breach of loyalist or republican ceasefires would be met with a "rigorous" response.

Trade Minister Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey: Spoke of party's "dilemma"

A decision on whether the UUP will pull out of the Stormont executive has now been put off until September.

Sir Reg said his party was trying to be responsible.

"We have given this our best shot," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday.

"We have tried very, very hard at all times to implement every aspect of the Agreement for which we are responsible - including bits that we didn't like.

"We have done that faithfully. But there has not been the response. There is not an end to paramilitarism.

"And until that situation is resolved, democratic politicians will have a tremendous dilemma."

Party leader David Trimble met his assembly members at Stormont on Thursday to discuss the government's statement.

Tony Blair
Unionists have criticised Tony Blair's statement
Afterwards, Mr Trimble said he would consult with his party in a formal way in September.

The Northern Ireland first minister refused to say whether he would call a meeting of his party's ruling council at that time.

He said his assembly team wanted it on record that they thought the government's statement and conduct was "appalling".

Mr Trimble said the Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid, had given the impression the paramilitaries had won.

Dr Reid said he was considering using an assessment of levels of paramilitary violence within both loyalist and republican communities to supplement his decisions on ceasefires and would decide on this over the summer.

Mr Blair revisited the subject at the second of his "presidential-style" media briefings in London earlier on Thursday.

He reiterated that the government was prepared to move against Sinn Fein if the IRA ceasefire was breached.

While recognising loyalist violence, Mr Blair said it was Sinn Fein and the republican movement which was sitting in government.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the threat of action from the government was "fuelled by political bias".

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 ON THIS STORY
Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey
"Paramilitaries are demonstrably active on the streets"
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See also:

25 Jul 02 | N Ireland
25 Jul 02 | N Ireland
24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
17 Jul 02 | N Ireland
17 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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