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NI Election: Unionism is leaderless, claims rebel Patterson

By Jonny Bell

Northern Ireland's forefathers would be ashamed at the predicament those currently leading unionism have put Northern Ireland in, a controversial former DUP councillor has said.

Veteran Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson was expelled from the party in late 2015 after speaking out about its decision to co-opt Emma Little Pengelly as an MLA, instead of her.

She had branded Ms Little Pengelly "a well paid blow-in".

The DUP accused Ms Patterson of "bringing the party into disrepute".

Ms Little Pengelly then trounced Mrs Patterson in last year's election, after the colorful councillor ran as an independent.

But now Ms Little Pengelly has lost her seat, Ms Patterson is not gloating.

Ms Little Pengelly has suggested she lost her seat after "voter confusion" caused by leaflets advising voters to give their first preferences to her running mate in areas she was expecting to receive it.

Mrs Patterson said politics was brutal, and wished the former MLA the best for the future.

"I am just glad I am getting out of it," she added.

Mrs Patterson laid the blame for unionism losing its overall majority in an elected arena for the first time since the state's birth squarely on the shoulders of Arlene Foster.

She said had the DUP leader stood aside for four weeks - as Sinn Fein had suggested, to allow for an interim report into the 'cash for ash' debacle - then an election could have been avoided.

"She was not thinking of all the MLAs who lost their jobs, their staff that lost their jobs or the offices that will have to close. And she was not thinking of Northern Ireland."

She added: "Unionism has no leader, it is a boat without a paddle, and were are in a horrendous situation.

"Our forefathers would be appalled at that.

"We are coming up to the centenary of Northern Ireland and look at us - it is appalling."

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