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16 April 1998 Edition

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Unionist disunity

On Wednesday afternoon the Grand Lodge of the Orange Order refused to endorse the Agreement. They asked for clarification on a number of issues, but reports indicated that the feeling at the meeting was strongly against the Agreement. It is seen as a blow for the Trimble leadership of the UUP.

Since the Loyalist storming of Stormont under the gaze of Carson on the eve of last Friday's Agreement, unionist disunity has surfaced to threaten David Trimble's mantle as the main leader of unionism.

Led by DUP's Ian Paisley and his deputy Peter Robinson the press conference in Stormont that followed the `invasion of Stormont,' was literally a riot, as men who had previously been fodder for DUP rhetoric jeered and heckled Paisley.

The next morning as the deal was presented to the waiting media UUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson was notable in his absence from the `united' front put forward by Trimble and the loyalist parties.

At the Saturday meeting of the Ulster Unionist executive council it became evident that Trimble was facing serious dissension from among his ten MPs. Led by West Tyrone MP William Thompson, the gang of four - including MPs Roy Beggs, Willie Ross and Clifford Forsythe - a hard core of `No' campaigners became evident.

Despite coming through the meeting relatively unscathed (he got a 2 to 1 mandate) Trimble's troubles continue.

Saturday's Ulster Unionist Council meeting is the next big, and vital, test, where 860 members will vote to back or reject the Agreement.

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