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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 09:06 GMT

UK: Northern Ireland

Trimble will 'split party' - Thompson

William Thompson: Trimble prepared to split the party over deal

A senior Ulster Unionist dissident MP says David Trimble's position has been greatly weakened by the party leader's reported failure to sell the latest political deal to his assembly team.

Ulster Unionist Willie Thompson:" David Trimble is unlikely to succeed"
William Thompson, who opposes the Good Friday Agreement, believes his party leader is prepared to make a deal with republicans at the expense of splitting the Ulster Unionists.

He appeared to confirm reports suggesting the Ulster Unionist Assembly members had rejected the deal secured by David Trimble with Sinn Fein.

The Search for Peace
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Link to David Trimble
He also doubted that republicans had moved sufficiently on the issue of decommissioning to satisfy unionists.

"While there may have been some movement, there certainly has been no movement on that they would give up arms before there was an executive."

[ image: David Trimble: Secret ballot of assembly members.]
David Trimble: Secret ballot of assembly members.
And he said it was unlikely that Mr Trimble could sell it to the 800 member Ulster Unionist Council following reports he had failed to convince the Assembly team, considered to represent the liberal wing of the party.

"He's quite prepared to split the Unionist party to get his way," he said.

"If it were to go Mr Trimble's way in the Council, the unity of the Unionist party would be under pressure."

"His problem is going to be that he's going to have very few heavyweights prepared to bat for him.

Mr Thompson counted party deputy leader John Taylor among the strongest opponents of the deal.

[ image: John Taylor
John Taylor "would not be batting for David Trimble" - William Thompson
He predicted an uncertain future for the Assembly even if David Trimble managed to convince the Council to support him.

"Even if he were to win that battle in the council, his long term prospect of getting the Assembly going and actually working is very remote.

"He needs certainly the support of the majority of the Assembly party to keep an Assembly running if it gets off the ground."

He said that support among unionists for the Good Friday Agreement was declining.

"Since the agreement was signed, the mood of the unionist people of Northern Ireland has been moving in our way."

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