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Bunting's desire to be Assembly candidate for TUV 'says something' about her departure: Jim Allister

Councillor hit out after being rejected as Assembly candidate for party

Jim Allister has said Jolene Bunting's desire to be an Assembly election candidate for the TUV "says something" about her decision to quit the party.

Jolene Bunting announced she was quitting the party with a "heavy heart" on Tuesday.

It came after the party rejected her as a candidate for North Belfast in the election. The party chose not to run a candidate in the constituency.

Reacting, Jim Allister told the BBC: "Obviously nobody likes to lose members, but a member who was so content that she wanted to be a candidate and then leaves because she isn't a candidate, I think that says something.

"There are many bigger issues and the big issue tomorrow is whether or not the people want to show dismay and disgust at Stormont."

More: Jolene Bunting resigns from TUV with 'heavy heart'

Jolene Bunting was the first TUV councillor to be elected to Belfast City Council in 2014.

Shortly after this she was forced to apologise after sectarian rants she posted online as a teenager resurfaced. Last month she told of her "heartbreak" that these posts were being "cast up" by members of her party to prevent her running as a candidate in North Belfast.

On Tuesday she announced that she had resigned and will continue on Belfast City Council as an Independent member.

She said: "It is with a very heavy heart that I must announce that I have resigned from TUV with immediate effect.

"I will remain on Belfast City Council as an Independent member, I will also continue to serve the people of Court DEA (Greater Shankill)"

In a Facebook post in January, Ms Bunting said officials would not allow her to stand because she posted a sectarian message online several years ago.

She said at the time that she had some "hard thinking to do" and that officers had "made it very clear that I do not have the support of the party".

She said: "I can understand Republican trolls using these screenshots, of silly things I said as a teenager (and have since apologised for).

"However, it is totally heartbreaking to have these posts cast up by members of my own party, as an excuse, along with others, not to provide the people of North Belfast with the opportunity to vote for a TUV candidate."

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