Irish Republican News · December 1, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Trimble unmoved by resignation calls
Trimble unmoved by resignation calls

A reported attempt by Ulster Unionist Party hardliner Jeffrey Donaldson to depose David Trimble as party leader following last week's election failed to materialise today.

Instead, he was himself threatened with a special council meeting to call for his resignation.

Mr Donaldson confirmed that moves were being made to have him ejected.

He was speaking after a meeting at Stormont of the UUP Assembly group which had been billed as a showdown between the pro and anti-Agreement camps.

Although the UUP grouping in the Belfast Assembly has decreased only from 28 to 27 members at the end of counting in Wednesday's election, it has been surpassed by the DUP, who won seats previously held by smaller anti-Agreement unionist parties.

Pointing out that his party had uupped its percentage of the vote, David Trimble said his resignation wasn't an issue. ``This job isn't finished,'' he said.

But Mr Donaldson said he believed the only way forward for his party was for Mr Trimble to step down.

He refused to speculate on whether he would seek to become leader of the party.

``There isn't a vacancy at the moment and a vacancy doesn't arise naturally until the Ulster Unionist Council in March. That's why I have chosen my words carefully and said that in the interests of rebuilding the party before the next election that the party leader should step aside.''

A group of pro-agreement loyalists such as Mr Michael McGimpsey, Mr Dermot Nesbitt and Mr Jim Wilson rallied at the weekend behind Mr Trimble with new UUP Assembly member in Strangford Mr David McNarry going so far as to challenge Mr Donaldson to either support the leader or defect to the DUP. ``Even if Jeffrey takes four other members out of the party with him we are better off being 22 and united,'' he told the Sunday Times.

Mr Trimble refused to comment on calls for him to go.

He said: ``I'm sorry if Jeffrey said that here because that doesn't reflect the group meeting we had. We were there for the best part of two hours, it was an amicable discussion.''

He declined to comment on whether an extraordinary meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council would be called to force Mr Donaldson out of the party.

The Ulster Unionist leader said his focus would be on challenging the DUP on its proposals to end the deadlock in the political institutions.

He added: ``This assembly here is empty, it is closed and it will not be open until some proposals come forward and it is not good enough for the DUP to go on pretending they are in opposition for the next year or so, because if they do then we won't be here.''

© 2003 Irish Republican News