SDLP members again reject poll plan and support Hume


SDLP members have repeated their opposition to unionist proposals for an elected assembly and their support for party leader Mr John Hume's referendum.

In addition, after a three hour meeting the party's general council said it recognised the value of the Government's proposal for "proximity talks".

But party sources say the SDLP has not totally rejected elections although the feeling at the meeting was that they should. If the British Prime Minister, Mr John Major, could "convince us that elections will lead directly to talks" they might not be ruled out.

Nonetheless the council, to which the leadership now reports and which liaises with the membership, said it was "unanimously and vehemently opposed to the proposals which have been made for an election".

Senior party members denied reports that Mr Hume was criticised for his handling of the ceasefire breakdown. "I just don't know where that idea germinated. It is scandalous," said Mr Eddie McGrady, the party's chief whip.

Party chairman Mr Jonathon Stephenson also said the reports were "completely untrue". Mr Hume, who this morning meets Mr Major in London, had the total support of the council.

There was not even coded criticism.

If everybody agreed the priority was to re instate the ceasefire and bring peace, said Mr McGrady, then there should be immediate negotiations. There was no reason why all party talks should not take place, he said.