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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Trimble determined to continue as leader
UUP leader David Trimble
David Trimble may have to face UUP's ruling council
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said he is determined to lead the party into the next election and he's confident about the result.

Mr Trimble's comments followed a call from anti-Agreement members of the UUP for a crunch meeting of his party's ruling council to discuss whether to continue in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government.

A meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council may be held in September to debate the party's future in government with Sinn Fein.

Anti-Agreement members of the party have lodged a petition containing more than 60 signatures requesting that an emergency meeting takes place as soon as possible.

South Antrim MP David Burnside
David Burnside is backing council move

Some members of the party had called for it to withdraw from the power-sharing executive because of recent reports alleging IRA activity in Northern Ireland and Colombia.

However, speaking after a meeting with the Acting Chief Constable, Colin Cramphorn, on Wednesday, Mr Trimble said peace would not be achieved easily but said his party would stick with it.

Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist assembly member described moves to call a special meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council as "absolute madness".

David McClarty from East Londonderry said David Trimble should be allowed to lead the party, and make decisions about sharing power with Sinn Fein.

In spite of the complaints, the meeting is likely to go ahead - towards the end of next month.

Debate

Such a meeting is also likely to raise concerns over the violence which has taken place in recent months in flashpoint areas of east and north Belfast.

The request for the meeting has been supported by the South Antrim MP David Burnside.

It was the 800-strong council which agreed to go into government with Sinn Fein two years ago. It also has the power to pull Ulster Unionist ministers out.

Before any meeting can take place, the party officers have to debate the matter, agree on a date and find a venue.

The next meeting of party officers is due to take place on Friday.

David Trimble: Ulster Unionist Party leader
David Trimble: Determined to lead the party to the next Assembly elections

In July, Mr Trimble said he would put off any decision until September but any move from him has now been pre-empted by the anti-Agreement elements within his party.

With an assembly election looming next year, the "No" camp seems intent on a final effort to try to change the party leader's policy.

Anti-agreement Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said it was clear that there was a growing lack of confidence within unionism about the failure of paramilitaries to commit to peace.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said there was enough support within unionism to withstand the pressure from sceptics.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday, he said: "David Trimble is a unionist leader, he should act as a champion of the Agreement that he signed and that they voted for."

David Burnside said he expected an Ulster Unionist Council meeting to take place in mid-September.

He said while he had not signed the petition, he fully backed it.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said Mr Burnside was not proposing an answer to his own concerns.

He said the South Antrim MP wanted to bring down the Good Friday Agreement structures by his actions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Martina Purdy:
"There is no certainty the Assembly will survive"
BBC NI's political correspondent Mark Simpson:
"Mr Trimble said there were more important things than internal party matters"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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See also:

28 Aug 02 | N Ireland
24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
24 Jul 02 | N Ireland
17 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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