He was followed closely by the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, David Ervine, and the anti-Agreement unionist Robert McCartney, leaving only the Social Democratic and Labor Party, Sinn Fein and smaller parties at the talks.
Trimble cited the British government’s view, quoted in an Irish government-briefing document, that the IRA was still training, recruiting and procuring weapons for defensive use. The document was left behind after a closed-door meeting and later found by a journalist.
Trimble said that the British government had promised that if the IRA was still engaged in such activities it would result in punishment for Sinn Fein. He believed his supporters would not understand him remaining at the talks unless London delivered.
“The people of Northern Ireland would not understand if we sat around that table talking as if nothing had happened in a situation where it has been clearly shown that republicans have been in breach of their ceasefire and breach of the agreement,” he said.
Trimble did not comment on other views in the leaked document, such as an opinion that the Ulster Unionists, are “internally dysfunctional.” The document also questions whether the UUP would respond positively to any substantial move by the IRA to break the deadlock.
The document is known to have deeply embarrassed the Irish government, whose public line has always been that the IRA has not broken its ceasefire. Yet, the document makes clear that it is still operating.