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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 June, 2005, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
NI settlement 'linked to parades'
Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg has won the Ulster Unionist leadership race
There can be no permanent political settlement in Northern Ireland until the parading issue is resolved, Sir Reg Empey has said.

Sir Reg was speaking a day after he was elected as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The ex-Stormont enterprise minister beat fellow assembly member Alan McFarland in a close race on Friday.

He succeeds David Trimble who quit as leader after the party's poor showing in last month's elections.

Sir Reg said he was under "absolutely no illusions" about the difficulties that lay ahead.

"It's a mammoth task but we have faced great adversity before and we will meet the challenge," he added.

Sir Reg also warned the government against allowing the current political vacuum in Northern Ireland to continue.

Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme, the new unionist leader dismissed claims that he intended to appoint Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy as his deputy.

He said he had not discussed the matter yet.

"The first people to know will be my colleagues in the party," he said.

Sir Reg said he was determined to see more young people and women join the UUP.

"There is no point in bleating on about representation of women if they are not there," he said.

Asked about differences in the party about whether to go into government with Sinn Fein or form an opposition, he said: "It's a storm in a teacup. ... I am waiting to hear what they (the IRA) have to say, but far more importantly, I am waiting to see what they will do.

"I cannot make a decision about going into opposition. We have to keep all our options open ... I am not committing the party to any of that at this stage."

Sir Reg was elected in the second count following a vote by 618 members at the party's ruling council meeting.

He got 321 votes, ex-Army major Alan McFarland got 287 votes whilst Strangford MLA David McNarry was eliminated after one count.

Sir Reg, who was tipped to win the contest, becomes the 13th leader of the party.

It's a mammoth task but we have faced great adversity before and we will meet the challenge
Sir Reg Empey

When he announced his intention to stand, it emerged Sir Reg had the backing of more than half the party's MLAs as well as its MEP, Jim Nicholson.

Sir Reg said the UUP was guilty of "not listening" to its supporters and vowed to change that if he became leader.

He was a senior negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement.

After the contest, Alan McFarland said the UUP, "now needed to rally round its new leader and move forward".

"We cannot out-DUP the DUP, we should not be trying, but there needs to be clear water between ourselves and the DUP to give the electorate a choice as to whether they vote Ulster Unionist or the DUP.

"Our first problem is, we have to try to produce a party, as soon as we can, that is electable, that actually looks as if it is together, organised, speaking with one voice with clear policies," he said.

"At that stage, we can then go back to the electorate."

The challenges facing the new Ulster Unionist leader

Ex-major in UUP leadership race
13 Jun 05 |  Northern Ireland
Empey launches UUP leadership bid
09 Jun 05 |  Northern Ireland
McNarry joins UUP leadership race
07 Jun 05 |  Northern Ireland

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