Unionist backroom

As the weekend meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council approaches, more and more journalists turn their attention to the expected showdown between David Trimble and the hardliners in his party, a group who in the Assembly at least can be expected to have greater influence than in the past.

Rosie Cowan describes one of the more youthful dissident voices within the Unionist Party, Arlene Foster as a “young, articulate, up-and-coming solicitor, mother of a two-year-old and an 18-week-old baby, and with a sense of humour, she is the antithesis of the dour old men considered typical of unionist rejectionists.”

David McKitterick focuses on two letters sent out by the two main protagonists in the main set piece argument over whether Unionists should continue to sit in government with Sinn Fein. Trimble concentrates on the practical and moral inroads that the the Belfast Agreement has made on the Republican agenda. Donaldson continues to hammer away at the old moral argument that Sinn Fein’s armed associates within the Republican movement are still armed, and therefore must be removed from office, forthwith.

However, while Trimble continues to warn against the danger of Unionist disunity, Noel McAdam articulates a more subtle edge to the Donaldson tactic:

“Mr Donaldson says he still wants to hear that the war is over, but all the evidence is in the opposite direction. Republicanism has already split, yet the Government continues to ‘pander to Gerry Adams’ every whim.

‘Isn’t it time Gerry Adams came off the fence? It is quite galling that Mr Adams isn’t prepared to co-operate with the police in bringing the Omagh bombers to justice. I am not asking for surrender. I am simply asking that if we want to provide stable government, then the implements of war must be put away’.”