Donaldson motion on Sinn Fein sanctions is defeated


Northern Ireland's First Minister Mr David Trimble today convincingly beat off efforts to force him into a deadline for pulling his ministers out of the Stormont Executive.

A motion put before the Ulster Unionist Party's Executive in Belfast by Mr Jeffrey Donaldson to resign by July 1st if the British government fails to impose sanctions on Sinn Féin was comfortably defeated.

Afterwards, Mr Trimble said he was not prepared to resign from the administration and leave the political process in disarray with disorder in the streets.

"I'm not going to gamble with the future of Northern Ireland, I'm not going to gamble with the future of the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

The latest crisis has been sparked by fresh allegations that members of the IRA Army Council sanctioned weapons testing in Colombia and by claims that Republicans were orchestrating violence in Belfast.

Mr Trimble had a message for British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair in the run-up to a meeting between the two governments and the pro-agreement parties, which could take place at the end of next week.

"Unless he (Mr Blair) acts to make it clear that the law will be upheld and that his promises will be redeemed he is gambling with the future here, he is gambling with the political process and we might all be the losers," he said.

Mr Donaldson said there was a consensus at the meeting that there was a political crisis in Northern Ireland and a crisis of confidence within unionism because of the IRA's failure to make a commitment to peace.

"I am absolutely clear that the time for talking about the IRA and their failure to commit to peace is over and it is now time for action to deal with the Republican movement's inconsistencies and the duplicitous approach to this process," he said.

An informed source said that the prevailing mood among party members during the meeting was that the party should take action against Sinn Féin.

Another source described the meeting as very heated. "Jeffrey Donaldson's letter wasn't actually put forward as a proposal until the end of the discussion and by then probably 30 per cent of the people had left."

It is believed that almost three quarters of those who voted rejected Mr Donaldson's motion. Party officers will now have a series of discussions to decide on the way ahead.