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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Unionists to hold emergency meeting
Unionist MPs want to stand in Stormont elections
Ulster Unionist party officers have agreed to call an emergency meeting of the party's ruling council over power-sharing with republicans.

Fourteen officers, including leader David Trimble, met on Friday in County Fermanagh to discuss a petition loged by anti-Agreement unionists calling for a debate next month on power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

The meeting will be held in Belfast on 21 September.

UUP chairman James Cooper said he hoped the meeting would be used to unite the party around one policy.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson
Jeffrey Donaldson is the MP for Lagan Valley

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

There are also concerns over the violence which has taken place in recent months in flashpoint areas of east and north Belfast.

Party officers have also decided to allow MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside to run in the next Assembly election.

Under party rules, MPs need a special dispensation to contest Assembly elections.

Four years ago, Mr Trimble was given permission along with deputy leader John Taylor to run for Stormont office.

Mr Trimble will also be allowed to run in the Assembly elections next May.


However, Mr Donaldson, who is the MP for Lagan Valley, was not allowed to run in the last assembly elections.

Mr Burnside, who represents the South Antrim constituency in the Commons, is not happy with the current political arrangements and has said he will work to change them.

The request for a special meeting of the ruling council created further internal friction in the party.

However, as long as the petition for the meeting is deemed to be valid, party officers will have little option but to call the meeting, which under party rules, has to take place within three weeks.

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

David Burnside: South Antrim UUP MP
David Burnside: South Antrim MP will run in the next assembly elections

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.

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.

Fellow party MPs Lady Sylvia Hermon and Roy Beggs, have indicated they will not be putting their names forward for the assembly.

South Belfast MP the Reverend Martin Smyth, said he was unlikely to seek permission to stand, but had yet to make a final decision.

The only member of the Ulster Unionist Party to sit in the Commons and Stormont is the leader, David Trimble.

Former party deputy leader John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney, was also elected to the assembly but decided not to contest his Strangford Westminster seat at last year's general election.

BBC NI's political correspondent Mark Simpson:
"The decision kickstarts a debate within the party on whether to remain in government with Sinn Fein"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

22 Aug 02 | N Ireland
28 Aug 02 | N Ireland
28 Aug 02 | N Ireland
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