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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Devolution: Ulster Unionists
As the parties involved in talks on the future government of Northern Ireland take part in this week's key summit in Scotland, we take a look at the key issues and players.

Having already shared power with Sinn Fein, the Ulster Unionists can be forgiven for feeling frustrated at these talks.

Since the 2003 assembly election the UUP hasn't controlled the majority of unionist votes in the assembly so they aren't the crucial deal makers they once were.

They now suspect that the DUP, which hounded their former leader David Trimble every step of the way, is preparing to steal their clothes.

Their current leader, Sir Reg Empey, has warned that decisions are required at St Andrews, not what he describes as "more waffle". In particular he wants Sinn Fein to do what he terms the "heavy lifting" by making it clear that it will drop its refusal to support the police.

Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey has warned that decisions are required at St Andrews

Sir Reg has also cautioned unionists to be vigilant about further concessions to republicans, especially on the controversial return of IRA fugitives also known as "on the runs".

The government ran into fierce parliamentary opposition on this topic at the turn of the year and the Ulster Unionists now fear ministers will meet republican concerns through more subtle methods, such as pardons or decisions that prosecutions are not in the public interest.

The UUP say they will assess any political package once they see the detail. However, it's clearly in the party's interests for the Stormont executive to be revived.

Last year's Westminster election almost wiped out the UUP as a force at Westminster leaving them with just one MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Already in the red, the party would suffer the most if it lost its assembly wages and allowances on 24 November. Indeed some believe the DUP may be tempted to break the November deadline in order to maximise its financial advantage.

Having frequently been divided over the peace process during David Trimble's period of leadership, the Ulster Unionists faced further internal divisions this year over their relationship with the UVF-linked PUP.

Sir Reg Empey defended an assembly alliance with the PUP leader David Ervine as strengthening unionism within any future executive and helping to encourage the UVF to take a political route.

However, the alliance came in for criticism from Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Eventually the Stormont Speaker, Eileen Bell, ruled that it contravened the rules of the Assembly.

Sir Reg says he will continue to use his influence to try to persuade loyalists to give up violence.




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