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N. Ireland's Trimble Faces Fight for Unionist Leadership

March 24, 2000|Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — A Protestant critic of Northern Ireland's peace settlement announced Thursday that he will try to oust David Trimble from leadership of the province's largest party, the Ulster Unionists.

Unionist Martin Smyth, a South Belfast member of the British Parliament, said he opposes involvement of Sinn Fein in a Northern Ireland power-sharing government because of the party's alliance with the outlawed Irish Republican Army.

Sinn Fein leaders "still have not been prepared to go forth as bona fide democrats," he told the BBC.

It is Smyth's second attempt to win the leadership. He lost to Trimble five years ago when James Molyneaux resigned.

Trimble, a central figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, said that he was "somewhat surprised and a little bit disappointed" by the challenge but that he hoped it would "finally clear the air." He said he trusted that members of the party council would endorse a continuation of his policies at their Saturday meeting.

Trimble has struggled to keep support of party dissenters throughout negotiations that led to the 1998 peace accord and last year's establishment of a four-party Roman Catholic-Protestant coalition administration for the province. He shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his efforts.

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