NI forum clashes expected

 

THERE are expected to be acrimonious exchanges between the DUP and the fringe loyalist parties at the Northern Ireland Forum, which reconvenes today after the summer recess.

DUP delegates are eager to discuss the death threat from the Combined Loyalist Military Command against two dissident loyalists, Mr Billy Wright and Mr Alex Kerr. The Progressive Unionist and Ulster Democratic Parties, the political wings of the UVF and UDA respectively, will be under severe pressure to condemn the threat.

The DUP cannot demand their expulsion from the forum, as the Mitchell principles of non violence apply to all party negotiations only. However, the party can propose the holding of a debate on the death threat and its implications for the PUP and UDP. Both fringe parties will be under severe pressure to condemn the CLMC statement.

The PUP has so far refused to do so, saying that the "politics of condemnation" are worthless: the DUP has accused the party of engaging in "Sinn Fein speak".

The Democratic Unionist MP for Mid Ulster, the Rev William McCrea, spoke at a rally in support of Mr Wright on Wednesday night.

The only motion on the forum's agenda is an Ulster Unionist one condemn in the nationalist boycott of Protestant businesses across the North. However, DUP sources said they expected a lengthy debate on th death threat.

Neither the SDLP nor Sinn Fein will attend the forum meeting. The SDLP members resigned their seats after the Drumcree standoff, and Sinn Fein has operated a boycott policy since the body was set up.

The forum will meet in new surroundings today. It has moved to accommodation in Belfast's Interpoint Centre in York Street, which was refurbished at an estimated cost of £3.5 million.