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Saturday, 29 April, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
MP's death adds to pressure on Trimble
Parties met for Downing Street talks on Tuesday
Parties met for Downing Street talks on Tuesday
By BBC NI political editor Stephen Grimason

As the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach prepare for another tilt at restoring devolution to Northern Ireland the mood music is still fairly sombre.

The two premiers have put their collective thoughts on the way forward to the main pro-agreement parties but while there are plenty of options being considered the big question is: will any of them actually work?

The likelihood is that Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble would have to accept words only from republicans on decommissioning, which means the peace process pressure pendulum has now swung back in his direction.

He has long since been painted into a corner on the guns issue - who coloured in the floor, the leader or the refusenicks, is merely an interesting side issue. The fact is, he is in a corner.

Clifford Forysythe seat battle on Agreement lines
Clifford Forysythe seat battle on Agreement lines
The death of South Antrim MP Clifford Forsythel puts even more pressure on Mr Trimble.

If the Ulster Unionists were to lose one of their safest seats on the issue of the Good Friday Agreement, it would be difficult for the leader to continue.

All of which presents the South Antrim Ulster Unionist Constituency Association with a difficult choice.

At the assembly election there two years ago, pro and anti-agreement unionist votes were pretty evenly split.

Since then anti-agreement sentiment has steadily hardened.

The anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party will put former Mid-Ulster MP William McCrea into the South Antrim battle so what sort of candidate will the UUP chose?

They might want to blunt the DUP challenge by putting forward an anti-agreement candidate - Mr Forsythe was in that camp anyway - but that would be seen as another studied insult to the party leader.

A pro-agreement candidate would be seen as a vote of confidence in Mr Trimble the leader but such a move could lose the seat.

There is also the question of when the election will be held. Following the death of an MP, it's up to his party to move the writ for a by-election.

David Trimble would probably not want to be fighting an election in the run-up to Drumcree and he might well wait until the autumn, but will his position by then be stronger or weaker?

Police bodies will be consulted on new logo bill says
Police bodies will be consulted on new logo bill says
The only good news for pro-agreement unionists was the weekend revelation by the BBC that in the proposed legislation to give effect to the Patten Report the new RUC badge and flag would be agreed between the secretary of state, the new Policing Board, the Chief Constable and the Police Association, which is made up of the Police Federation, the Superintendents' Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Sinn Fein do not like the sound of that - having already heard Peter Mandelson suggest a reconfiguration of the harp, crown and shamrock in the cap badge might not be a bad idea.

Republicans are demanding the full implementation of the Patten report, as are the SDLP.

Seamus Mallon has called on Peter Mandelson to grasp the policing nettle and stop passing the buck.

More cynical peace process observers might detect suggestions of an RUC/decommissioning trade-off being injected into the political package being prepared by London and Dublin for this week's negotiations.

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See also:

29 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Unionist dilemma over South Antrim seat
29 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Tributes paid to MP
28 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
'IRA weapons rethink needed'
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