Trimble survives again
BY FERN LANE
So David Trimble survives, politically speaking, to fight another day - but only just. After the hastily convened UUP conference at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on Saturday 7 October, followed by the narrow defeat of a vote of no confidence brought against him by the DUP at Stormont on Monday, the party s anti-Agreement members appear to have decided that for the time being their best ploy is to try and force a change in policy rather than leader. According to some sources, however, there may well be another attempt to remove Trimble after the forthcoming meeting of the Ulster Unionist ruling council.
Aside from the insistence that the RUC remain forever unchanged, the party's requirements in respect of decommissioning have now evolved into demands for what Donaldson refers to as `product'; in the absence of such `product' the no-camp - which essentially does not want to share power with nationalists in any circumstances whatsoever - will be provided with the excuse it needs to compel the UUP to ultimately withdraw altogether from Stormont, forcing its collapse. The antis will begin that process by bringing forward a motion at the meeting in a fortnight's time for non-co-operation with the North South Ministerial Council.
Jeffrey Donaldson, who again retreated from mounting a direct challenge against Trimble for the leadership of the UUP when given an opportunity to do so on Saturday, adopted instead his customary tactic of remaining on the sidelines issuing threats of a possible future challenge and calling for Trimble to pull out of power-sharing with Sinn Féin whilst offering no alternative policy other than to say `No'. In short, he bottled it. Given his own and his supporters' apparent confidence in his ability to win a head to head contest with his party leader, this is rather surprising, although it is clear that Donaldson's plan is to only put himself forward in a leadership election if and when the UUP withdraws from Stormont. In that way, he avoids any direct blame for its collapse, whilst having done his utmost to bring it about.
other reason for this particular plan of action could also be because it has finally occurred to Donaldson that the problems and choices facing Trimble are not unique to him personally. Any leader, even Donaldson, would come under exactly the same pressures. If he withdrew the UUP from Stormont it would not bring about IRA disarmament, nor would it in itself ensure that the RUC retains its status as the sole preserve of unionism. More likely, the collapse of power-sharing is likely to bring about joint authority, unionism's second-worse nightmare after full Irish unity.