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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2007, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK
IRA must disappear - UUP's Empey
Sir Reg Empey addressed delegates at the UUP conference
Sir Reg Empey addressed delegates at the UUP conference
The IRA should disband and disappear, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has told his party conference.

Sir Reg also said that the public spats within his party were now over and he was tired of Ian Paisley claiming credit for Ulster Unionist achievement.

"I accept the IRA has changed in the last few years," he said.

"But rather than believing that it has gone away entirely, I suspect that it may actually be in a form of suspended animation - a hibernation."

The UUP leader told the party's annual conference on Saturday: "But the 'potential' of the IRA still exists and it will exist for so long as the IRA itself exists.

"The IRA needs to disappear altogether, disband, dismantle all of its structures.

"That, and that alone, would be the clearest possible sign to unionism that we really are living in a new political dispensation."

'Disappointing elections'

Sir Reg also told delegates there should be a business tax regime which would enable Northern Ireland to compete internationally.

"This isn't just about Corporation Tax alone, but fuel duties relative to the Republic," he said.

SDLP minister Margaret Ritchie was invited to speak
The message to those who might seek to dominate us is simple - no surrender
Margaret Ritchie
SDLP minister
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP became the first nationalist politician to address an Ulster Unionist conference.

She said she felt comfortable to be there and thanked Sir Reg and Michael McGimpsey for being the only ministers to support her in her recent Executive row with the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"I believe my party and your party, in our different ways, can fight back and must do so with vigour," she said.

"In the meantime, we are all in the vital business of rebuilding and renewing our organisations, and I wish you well with that work.

"And the message to those who might seek to dominate us is simple - no surrender."

Reforms backed

Earlier, Ulster Unionist members backed wide-ranging reforms proposed in a review headed by Sir Reg.

The vote was held at an extraordinary general meeting in Belfast ahead of the annual conference.

They overwhelmingly adopted the plans designed to help the party fight back following a series of disappointing elections and internal splits.

The reforms mean all members, and not just those on the ruling council, can vote in leadership elections.

The Ulster Unionist Council will also be open to all members instead of selected delegates.

However, the selection of candidates will be more centralised, with less power for its 18 constituency associations.

In response to a chronic under-representation of women and young people, both groups will in future be represented among the party officers.



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