UUP feud ahead of leadership vote
UUP feud ahead of leadership vote

Lord Kilclooney, the former UUP deputy leader John Taylor, has publicly attacked the candidates for the party leader’s job. He referred to them as “has-beens” associated with the demise of the party, and suggested that British Army Colonel Tim Collins would be a good choice.

However Col Collins is not a member of the party. Yesterday he issued a statement saying he was “not qualified to undertake such a momentous position”.

Lord Kilclooney said the Ulster Unionists desperately needed a change of approach following the resignation of David Trimble in the wake of the UUP’s dismal election result.

He told the BBC: “Even now there is absolutely no evidence that the UUP realises what is necessary to regain the confidence and support of those who have transferred their support to the DUP or who, in their thousands, now simply refuse to vote.

“That is why I suggested an interim leadership until next April so that the UUP could prepare itself for a totally new leadership; for example Col Tim Collins, and this is only one of a number of possibilities.”

Party negotiator Reg Empey and a former aide to Trimble, David McNarry, have both confirmed this week they are to contest the party leadership.

Empey said he was “saddened” by Taylor’s remarks, while McNarry said yesterday he believed “not many people listen to John Taylor”.

An extraordinary general meeting of the party’s ruling Ulster Unionist Council in Belfast will choose Mr Trimble’s successor on June 24th.

Announcing his candidacy, Mr McNarry said he wants to “take the party out of denial”. He promised to restructure the party to ensure the leadership was in better touch with its elected representatives and with the unionist electorate.

Mr McNarry is a member of the Orange Order and the Loyalist Commission, an umbrella organisation for politicians and loyalist groups.

Declaring his candidacy last night, Reg Empey said it was unlikely he would share power with Sinn Féin until autumn 2007 - even if the IRA were to stand down now.

He said the UUP required radical reorganisation, “significant” general leadership changes and a disciplined and unified front.

He said he obviously wished that circumstances were different, but added that “we are where we are as a party” and it had to start rebuilding.

Empey said: “We are the party of the union. The union would not exist without the party, and people have to remember that.”

It is expected that several high-profile unionists and a significant number of the Ulster Unionists youth wing will come out in support of Empey. The vote will be significant as the hardline Orange Order section of votes is no longer involved.

Nominations are still open until one week before the meeting. Former MP Ken Maginnis and North Down Assembly member Alan McFarland are also considered prospective candidates.

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