Trimble's difficulties 'will continue after election'


The Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mr David Trimble, could face further convulsions in his party even if he wins a key Assembly vote to return as Northern Ireland First Minister, party sources have warn.

With both wings of the party predicting Mr Trimble and incoming nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan will be elected, one Assembly source gloomily said: "Even if he wins, he could still face another meeting of the party council to tie him into another exit strategy from the executive.

"There are many in the party who are distinctly uncomfortable with him being re-elected with Alliance votes, even if their redesignation as unionists is only for a week.

"There is no indication of a further syphoning off of support in the Assembly. He should win the vote but the party is irrevocably split, particularly over any disciplinary action that might be taken against Pauline Armitage and Peter Weir."

Ms Armitage and Mr Weir defied their leader by opposing his bid last Friday to become First Minister and siding with the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists.

Their decision was crucial in denying Mr Trimble the First Minister's post by just one vote.

To get elected, the UUP leader and Mr Durkan must secure a majority of nationalist MLAs in the chamber as well as a majority of unionists.

With 30 unionists opposing them and 29 in favour on Friday, it is estimated Mr Trimble needs three Alliance members to win if their non-aligned MLAs are allowed to redesignate as unionists.