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BBC NI's Conor Bradford talks to Peter Weir
The North Down candidate said: "The important thing is a question of policy"
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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Anti-agreement unionist runs for MP
Peter Weir: Challenge to sitting MP Robert McCartney
Peter Weir: Challenge to sitting MP Robert McCartney
A fierce opponent of the Good Friday Agreement has been selected as an Ulster Unionist Party candidate for the next general election.

Assemblyman Peter Weir defeated two other candidates on Thursday night to be nominated as the party's North Down candidate.

And the pro-agreement loyalist David Ervine, whose Progressive Unionist Party is linked to the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, has also announced that he may run for the Westminister seat.

The seat, in what is dubbed as Northern Ireland's gold coast, is currently held by leader of the anti-agreement United Kingdom United Party Bob McCartney.

David Ervine PUP: May join battle for Westminster seat
David Ervine PUP: May join battle for Westminster seat
Mr Weir secured five votes ahead of the closest contender Lady Sylvia Hermon, who is wife of former RUC chief constable Sir John Hermon.

The result will be seen as yet another blow for the pro-agreement camp within the Ulster Unionist Party.

Mr Weir has been an outspoken critic of the Good Friday Agreement and last year he lost the party whip at the assembly for refusing to toe the party line.

He is believed to have an uneasy relationship with his party leader David Trimble.

However, following his selection in Bangor, County Down, he said it was time to look forward not back.

'Unite around strong policy'

"It's important that, as Ulster Unionists, we all move together, that we unite around a strong policy and start to heal within unionism, some of the divisions that have occurred, not just in the last week or two but over the last few years," he said.

Mr Weir paid tribute to the other two candidates, and said he believes he can not only challenge Mr McCartney, but can take the MP's seat.

"I look forward to fighting the next general election, as I believe I am the first Ulster Unionist candidate selected for that election," he said.

"I think this could be the first step to unite both Ulster Unionism and on a wider scale of things, unite unionism behind a strong clear message."

Constituency chairman Ian Henry welcomed Mr Weir's selection.

He said: "We are delighted that we now have a fresh, young candidate running for the position."

Chairman of the Young Unionists Peter King was also delighted.

"I am completely over the moon that a candidate of the quality and calibre of Peter Weir, has been selected to fight the general election in north Down," he said.

"He is the best candidate for the job, and I suspect that when he goes in front of the electorate, they will make the same judgement."

He said the selection sent out a clear message that, "despite the people's divergent views on the process, the quality of individual candidates shines through".

Announcing his possible candidacy David Ervine said his party did not want to leave the contest for the seat solely to anti-agreement runners.

He said: "It is unlikely we would give the nay-sayers a clear run

"Whoever the candidate may be, until the chips fall we are in the frame."

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble asks for unity
24 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Smyth: 'I can beat Trimble'
25 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble faces protest vote
25 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Double blow for Trimble
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