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05/05/05: The Election: UUP MAN NEARLY TUMBLED TRIMBLE.

Byline: JILLY BEATTIE

A MAN whose testimony helped falsely link David Trimble with collusion and murder is now standing as a UUP candidate.

But Jim Sands, who is fighting for a council seat in Antrim Town, says he does not expect to get elected.

Until recently Sands, from the Stiles estate in the town, had been writing to his local paper describing the Ulster Unionist Party as the "Rainbow Party".

Now a UUP candidate, he said: "I put myself forward for the election but I'm not really expecting to be elected."

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror, Sands said he had tried to move on from his part in the controversial book that threatened to tumble Trimble from power in 1998.

Trimble was falsely named by author Sean McPhilemy as being involved in a secret loyalist organisation - The Committee - which plotted to murder republicans and Catholics.

Sands admitted he said collusion was part of life in Northern Ireland and amazingly just a week before the election, claimed it still is today.

Seven years ago Sands was named as the primary source of a book called The Committee: Political Assassination in Northern Ireland.

Hugely controversial, it named Ulster politicians, lawyers, prominent businessmen and Government ministers within its pages, giving rise to several libel actions.

Although the Ulster Unionist Party leader was not referred to as a member of The Committee, he was openly accused, wrongly, of being an associate of the members. And he was falsely accused of providing political cover for the group's horrific activities.

The 1998 book was not published in the UK and Trimble, who denied all its claims about him, twice won an apology and undisclosed damages from Amazon over its decision to put extracts of the book on the internet.

The book and a 1991 TV documentary, also called The Committee, have been the subject of eight separate libel lawsuits, seven in the UK and one in the US where it is a best-seller with more than 60,000 copies sold. McPhilemy identified 18 victims whose murders were allegedly sanctioned and organised by The Committee between February 1989 and September 1991.

Some of his research was taken from information and opinions offered by Jim Sands while he was secretary of the Portadown branch of the UUP in Co Armagh.

Sands said he would not take part in a similar project again.

But he claimed collusion is still part of life in Northern Ireland today, although not at the scale it once was. He said: "There's probably not as much now and not as much as the scale that Gerry Adams would have you believe."

Now Sands says his life has moved on despite the upset over the book and added: "I haven't been advised about talking about it by anyone. But if I was asked to do it again I wouldn't. I was just being helpful."

David Trimble said: "Mr Sands was duly selected as candidate for Antrim town. His nomination papers were processed in the normal way. I wish him and all our candidates every success in the forthcoming election."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2005
Words:517
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