news vote 2001search vote 2001
 You are in: Vote2001: Northern Ireland
Main Issues 
Crucial Seats 
Key People 
Results &  Constituencies 
Opinion Polls 
Online 1000 
Virtual Vote 
Talking Point 
Voting System 
Local Elections 

N Ireland 

BBC News

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"All general elections here are referendums in local communities"
 real 28k

BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy:
"The executive would cease"
 real 28k

The DUP's Peter Robinson:
"a pathetic election stunt"
 real 28k

BBC NI's Political Correspondent Mark Simpson:
"The announcement came as a shock to the other parties"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 16:12 GMT
Trimble threat sets campaign tone
David Trimble
Trimble denies resignation threat is an election stunt
The calling of the general election has been overshadowed in Northern Ireland by the First Minister David Trimble's dramatic announcement that he will resign from his post if there is no IRA decommissioning.

The Ulster Unionist leader made the revelation in the assembly on Tuesday morning hours before Tony Blair said he was going to the country on 7 June.

The failure of the IRA to hand over weapons in the peace process has been a stumbling block to progress and has been particularly difficult for the Ulster Unionist Party.

They are split over the Good Friday Agreement and how long they should stay in government with Sinn Fein in the absence of the handover of weapons.

This will be seen as a pre-emptive strike against the DUP as much as against the IRA

Stephen Grimason, BBC NI political editor
Mr Trimble is under huge electoral pressure from the "No" camp within his own party and the DUP.

Although he has denied it the threatened resignation is being seen as a cranking up of the battle for the unionist vote.

BBC NI's political editor Stephen Grimason said the timing of the Trimble announcement was impossible to divorce from the election campaign:"This will be seen as a pre-emptive strike against the DUP as much as against the IRA.

"There have been times during the peace process where the parties have put their own interests above the process as a whole and this is one of those occasions."

Mr Trimble said he had lodged a letter with the speaker resigning as first minister from 1 July.

Paramilitary weapons on display
The arms issue again threatens the peace process
He told the assembly: "This letter will take effect unless before that date the republican movement keeps its promise it made over a year ago."

Mr Trimble was referring to the IRA statement made last May as a result of the negotiations at Hillsborough Castle, in County Down.


In the Good Friday Agreement, June is the deadline for the completion of paramilitary disarmament.

However, to date, only a handful of weapons have been handed over and these were from the paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer Force.

As recently as Sunday, Mr Trimble accused republicans of gambling with the Northern Ireland peace process.

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness says Trimble threat is "disastrous".
He said the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was being undermined and believed republicans wanted it to collapse.

Downing Street said Mr Trimble's announcement was "highly regrettable".

A spokesman said Mr Trimble must make his own decision but the government was hopeful and determined to make progess on outstanding issues by June.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness described Mr Trimble's actions as "disastrous''.

"Election stunt"

He said the First Minister's threat will make decommissioning from the IRA less likely rather than more likely.

The move was derided by anti-Agreement unionists. Peter Robinson of the DUP said it was "one of the most pathetic election stunts history has ever seen".

Unilateral deadlines rarely produce the outcome that they are intended to achieve

Seamus Mallon, SDLP
He said he believed the electorate would not buy into it.

Robert McCartney of the United Kingdom Unionist Party said Mr Trimble had tried to "fool the electorate" with the "same stunt" before and it was significant that the date of 1 July was after the election was over.

The Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the SDLP said that Mr Trimble had informed him just two minutes before making his announcement.

"I would have, had I had time to read the statement, tried to persuade him otherwise," he said.

"However I have made it clear in the past my view that unilateral deadlines rarely produce the outcome that they are intended to achieve."


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Related stories:

04 May 01 |  Northern Ireland
Trimble and Ahern in NI talks
05 Apr 01 |  Northern Ireland
Reid denies 'precondition' suggestion
10 Feb 01 |  Northern Ireland
Trimble threatens further sanctions
25 Mar 01 |  Northern Ireland
IRA guns 'still expected by June'
01 May 01 |  Northern Ireland
Adams: Republicans 'frustrated' by ban
14 Mar 01 |  Northern Ireland
IRA meets arms body

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites