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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 09:27 GMT
NI Unionists and UK Unionist parties

The Northern Ireland Unionist Party emerged in 1999 after internal disagreements between the members of the United Kingdom Unionist Party, an anti-devolution party of the mid 1990s.

Both parties want to preserve the union with Great Britain and oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

But four of the five UKUP assembly members split over policy towards Sinn Fein and set up the NIUP.

The NIUP now has three members in the Northern Ireland assembly, after the fourth, Roger Hutchinson, switched to another pro-unionist party, the Democratic Unionists.

The party, led by Cedric Wilson, says that it is committed to a restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Ulster and a revitalised union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It believes that the Good Friday Agreement has corrupted the democratic process in Northern Ireland, in particular by allowing what it describes as 'Sinn Fein/IRA' into the power-sharing assembly.

"It is nothing short of a disgrace that we have a system of government in Northern Ireland that has been so polluted by the representatives of armed terror," said Mr Wilson.

It believes that there is no need for constitutional participation by the Irish Republic in Northern Ireland.

The NIUP says there is an "irrefutable political case" for the union based on the principle of "equal citizenship within the United Kingdom".

The political unification of Northern Ireland with the republic would destroy the basis of economic well-being in Northern Ireland and indeed throughout the whole island, says the party.


UKUP

The party is led by Robert McCartney, who is both an MP and an assembly member for North Down.

It is seen by many as a bit of a 'one-man band' after the four other UKUP assembly members defected to form the NIUP.

The UKUP is opposed to the settlement and refused to participate in the talks that led to the Good Friday agreement because of the inclusion of Sinn Fein.

The party believes that Northern Ireland should become more British because it says the majority of its citizens want to remain part of the UK.

It opposes any constitutional links with the Irish Republic, or any attempts to involve it in Northern Ireland's affairs.

The party says it is still anti-devolution and would prefer that Northern Ireland's affairs were managed in Westminster, despite having an assembly member.

But it believes it's easier to influence events from within the assembly.

The party aligns itself with the United Kingdom Independence Party, which advocates British withdrawal from the European Union.

Mr McCartney could have a real battle to retain his seat this time as the Alliance Party candidate has pulled out of the North Down race in favour of Mr McCartney's UUP opponent.

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