It’s all over bar the shouting. In the ninth meeting of the ruling Ulster Unionist Council since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, David Trimble was forced to deliver an ultimatum to Sinn Fein that the IRA disarm and disband by the 18th January 2003. A boycott of the North/South ministerial bodies begins immediately.
Some Unionists, like David Burnside, believe that Sinn Fein will inevitable fail to satisfy Unionist demands for ‘definitive disarmament’. But it is likely that it is gradual and unspectacular flaking away of the middle ground of party pragmatists from the Trimble project that has pushed the party into issuing what may be the final deadline of this peace process.
Lynda Gabney was blunt in her analysis: “the longest, most excruciating suicide attempt in history, but yesterday the Ulster Unionist Party finally managed to cut its own throat.” The Sunday Life editorial speculates that the ultimate aim of the internal deal – to thwart the onward march of the DUP – may ultimately fail.