Irish Republican News · October 15, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
UUP feud erupts again

Jeffrey Donaldson, one of the three anti-Agreement Ulster Unionist MPs who defied party leader, David Trimble, says he's having second thoughts about re-entering the party fold.

The three MPs had applied to take the whip and officially rejoin the party's grouping at the Westminster parliament in London. The move came after the UUP executive appeared to bow to the trio's demands and effectively rejected the British and Irish Joint Declaration on progress in the North, the focus of the current talks process in Belfast and London.

But Jeffrey Donaldson now says they're being asked to give Mr Trimble the equivalent of `a blank cheque' in the current negotiations.

In a joint statement, the three MPs said their party's `bottom line' must be that ``the IRA must deal conclusively with weapons decommissioning, end all paramilitary activity and effectively wind up their paramilitary organisation.''

It also emerged today that the three MPs -- Jeffrey Donaldson, Martin Smyth and David Burnside -- have been told to apply individually in writing to retake the party parliamentary whip.

The three MPs expected their re-entry to the UUP parliamentary party would be automatic.

They have also been asked to include an undertaking to abide by future whip decisions.

A formal letter to the three emerged as leader David Trimble insisted his party executive had never rejected the two governments' Joint Declaration.

Mr Donaldson said today: ``If David Trimble is interpreting the decision of the party executive as not rejecting the Declaration, he is the only one who has that interpretation.''

And he warned that if chief whip Roy Beggs did not want them back in the party he would have to face the ruling Ulster Unionist Council.

``The Council simply asked us to resume the whip at their last meeting. We have nothing further to add to our letter last week,'' Donaldson added.

The latest eruption of hostilities comes just three days before the party's annual conference.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News