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Who would be David Trimble?

Former  First Minister and UUP leader, David Trimble. WHO WOULD be David Trimble today? He engineered his resignation as First Minister in order to bounce his republican colleagues into decommissioning arms and to see off the threat from the Democratic Unionists in the recent general election. He has succeeded in neither of these aims. The Provos remain well-armed and the DUP have gained seats in North Belfast and East Londonderry at the expense of the Ulster Unionists. Mr Trimble’s consolation prizes of North Down and South Antrim were gained with the help of the Alliance Party. The presence of David Burnside – the new South Antrim MP, who sees himself as the heir-apparent to the UUP leadership - seems to be a mixed blessing!

We have always argued that the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ is seriously flawed. It won acceptance by a slim majority of unionist voters because of false promises given by Tony Blair and a massive well-financed propaganda campaign that smeared anyone questioning the deal as warmongers and vicious bigots. David Trimble seems to have deceived himself that the Provos and armed loyalist groups were obliged to decommission under the terms of the Agreement. All the signatories pledged themselves to was "to use any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the overall settlement." Sinn Féin, the PUP and the UDP can all claim that they have fulfilled this part of the Agreement, but that to date they have been unsuccessful.

Sinn Féin and the IRA are not happy with David Trimble’s antics. They want to spin out the decommissioning issue forever. As they see it, the Agreement is not a final settlement of the conflict here, but a transitional arrangement on the road to an all-island Republic. Mr Trimble and the vanishing pro-Agreement faction within his party take the view that it is a final settlement, but all the evidence seems to be stacking up against them.

Our view is that David Trimble is on his way out. Even, if by some miracle, he manages to cobble together some understanding with Sinn Féin, he will not be able to sell it to a majority of UUP Assembly members and he will not win the necessary majority of ‘designated unionists’ to re-elect him as First Minister. We expect that the Executive and its institutions will be suspended once again or that new Assembly elections will be necessary before winter sets in. Perhaps Mr Trimble should polish up his CV and consider taking up a law lecturer’s job in some American university. At least he will have a future there.

David Kerr, August 2001

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