24 April 2006

Trimble's final call as First Minister

Sunday Life

23 April 2006

DAVID Trimble is ready for one last performance as Northern Ireland's First Minister.

But the former Ulster Unionist leader admits that his curtain call will probably last no more than minutes and hours, rather than days or weeks.

As he awaits a meeting with Garter King of Arms at the House of Lords to discuss a suitable title, the former Upper Bann MP said yesterday: "I suppose, technically, I am the First Minister and Mark Durkan is the Deputy First Minister under the suspension legislation, but I don't expect that will last for long.

"I suspect there will be a few gentlemen on the DUP benches who would rather not see me in that role.

"I also suspect that somewhere in the legislation that went through the House of Commons last week, there are hidden mechanisms that Peter Hain will be able to engage to change the circumstances," said Mr Trimble.

"I shall be there as an Assembly member but, really, whether I will be there as First Minister, I have no idea.

"If I am in the post, I wouldn't expect to hold it for more than a day or two.

"But if the Assembly can't agree to elect a new First and Deputy First Minister, then I don't know what will happen.

"I don't expect the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to agree on a new First and Deputy First Minister combination - Ian and Gerry doesn't quite have that 'Tom and Gerry' ring to it - so I wouldn't be surprised if Peter Hain has some other plan up his sleeve, but I will be there for a day or two if needed.

"I can see difficulties ahead and I don't see the DUP getting much change out of Peter Hain. I detect an attitude at the NIO which I expect will lead to a rough time ahead."

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