Trimble strengthens hold on UUP leadership
Trimble strengthens hold on UUP leadership

Ulster Unionist party leader David Trimble won 60 per cent of the vote in the latest leadership contest for the still-divided party on Saturday.

He defeated two relative unknowns who were seen as 'stalking-horses' for more promimnent figures such as party rebel David Burnside and one-time Trimble loyalist Reg Empey.

His vote was some percentage points higher than the level of support he has got in repeated challenges over recent years. Mr Trimble gained 448 votes while David Hoey and Robert Oliver received 162 and 132 votes of the Ulster Unionist Council respectively. The Trimble leadership also scored another significant success when Trimble supporter Lord Rogan displaced dissident Martin Smyth as party president.

Even more significantly, Mr Trimble secured his desired constitutional overhaul of the party, loosening the link with the quasi-religious Orange Order and making it more difficult for his opponents to demand another leadership challenge for another twelve months.

Mr Trimble said he was delighted with the result.

``I look forward to the party becoming settled,'' Mr Trimble said. ``To repeat a phrase I have used on other occasions this does represent the settled will of the party.''

However, the anti-Trimble factions of the Ulster Unionist Party did not appear settled when they stormed out of the Ramada Hotel.

``We have seen the demise of the Ulster Unionist Party,'' one said. Another female member vowed to leave the party immediately.

Few revealed their name to journalists.

But Antrim councillor Paul Michael shrugged off talk of members leaving the party.

He said: ``At the end of the day, if people leave the party it's sad, but people come and go - that's the way of life.''

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