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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
The view from Upper Bann
BBC News Online has been taking the temperature on the suspension of Stormont among nationalist and unionist voters and their representatives. Here, unionists have their say about the crisis.

Upper Bann is heartland unionism. It's the constituency of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Part rural, part urban, it includes Portadown, the scene of the annual Drumcree march, and Lurgan, a nearby town long blighted by tensions.

Out in the country you will find farming families, many of whom form the backbone of unionism, quiet people just as concerned with European agricultural policies as with the future of power-sharing.

In Lurgan, the faithful gather on Sunday morning to attend the town's dozen or so different Protestant churches.

The Reverend Stephen Van Os
Rev Van Os: "Great deal of uncertainty"
At the First Presbyterian Church in the centre of town, the Reverend Stephen Van Os welcomes his congregation to a harvest festival service, the church decorated with fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Like many who listen to the views of Protestant/unionist people, Rev Van Os, originally from the Netherlands via New Zealand, has seen a change in stance.

"There is a lot of fear about," he says. "There is a lot of fear because people are not sure what is going to happen.

I voted for David Trimble down the years. I would be very reluctant to vote for him again. He's too soft.

Unionist voter, Lurgan
"We are supposed to be in a time of peace but many of the people I speak to simply don't see it that way.

"Many of the people I speak to feel a great deal of uncertainty, some of it caused by the changes in policing as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

"They have seen officers leave the force and feel that the police cannot protect them anymore."

At the last general election, the DUP mounted an extremely strong challenge for the constituency, coming near to unseating David Trimble.

Reverend Van Os said he had seen middle class unionists consistently support David Trimble, but now he was no longer so sure.

"Many people in my congregation did vote yes [at the referendum], but they held their noses. I would not want to say now what their possible voting intentions would be.

"Many people see what's been going on as a one-way street. With the current events, they now want it to come to a stop."

Wavering support

"I'm a democrat, I believe in 50% plus one," said one Trimble supporter who is now wavering.

"I'm realistic to know which way it's heading, and if at some point there's a majority for a united Ireland, I will accept it - because I am a democrat.

"But I'm against the agreement because it means working with people who are not.

"I didn't believe decommissioning would happen and events have proved me correct.

"How can we have Sinn Fein in government here when [Irish prime minister] Bertie Ahern says it's not acceptable Dublin?

"I voted for David Trimble down the years. I would be very reluctant to vote for him again. He's too soft."

Out in the country, George Savage, Ulster Unionist assemblyman and election agent to David Trimble, is concerned about the impact suspension will have on farming.

George Savage
George Savage: "Farmers recognise change"
He says that many of his neighbours in the industry are extremely worried by suspension, not least because the assembly had started to bring change for farming.

"People around here were very sympathetic to the agreement.

"But as we have seen in the last week, the activities of Sinn Fein or their fellow travellers have shown there's a limit to how far David Trimble can take his supporters.

Thirty years ago Terrence O'Neill told unionists we need change. David Trimble is asking the same

George Savage
"Some people now feel that he went further than his remit, but it was done with good intentions for all. The problem is that when you ask his critics, they don't have an alternative."

But, he added, many of his constituents recognised that they were part of a time of historic change.

"Farmers have long recognised this change. They have to compete directly with farmers from other European Union countries. The assembly has given them a voice that they would not necessarily have.

"Milk quotas is a major concern for many farmers. We know that we have to develop a system that works for both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"If we don't have the assembly and it's dealt with by London and Dublin, we will be left out.

"Thirty years ago [former NI prime minister] Terrence O'Neill asked the unionist people 'do you want change, you know that we need change'. David Trimble is asking the same and people have to recognise the new situation.

"We've got this current crisis but people here know this process isn't going to stop. It's going to move forward. If the people of Northern Ireland don't take a grip, we'll be back to direct rule."

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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