Axed councillor Ruth Patterson tells DUP's Pengelly she's coming for her seat
Councillor Ruth Patterson is thrown out of the DUP as Peter Robinson makes an emotional farewell at party conference
Expelled DUP councillor Ruth Patterson has accused the party of "surrendering every principle they ever held" by allowing "an armed IRA to have representatives in government at Stormont".
She said that she had "absolutely no regrets" over an interview she gave to the Belfast Telegraph last week which led the party to expel her.
And she warned the DUP that she wouldn't be scared of challenging them at the polls in May.
Ms Patterson had previously told this newspaper that she was considering resigning from the DUP and running as a TUV candidate in South Belfast in next year's elections.
She had lambasted her party leadership for parachuting Emma Pengelly into an Assembly seat in that constituency and alleged they were increasingly elitist and out of touch with grassroots.
In a letter expelling her, the DUP leadership accused her of "bringing the party into disrepute".
"That is ridiculous," Ms Patterson said last night.
"I have been expelled for telling the truth. I have absolutely no regrets about speaking out.
"The DUP says I can appeal the decision to expel me but why would I?
"If successful, I would be bound once again to a party that has come to represent a unionism that is weak, treacherous, and based on the shifting sand of political convenience and clinging to power."
The DUP leadership snubbed Ms Patterson by selecting Ms Pengelly, a former special advisor to Peter Robinson and now a junior minister, to replace retired MLA Jimmy Spratt.
In last week's interview, Ms Patterson described Ms Pengelly as "a very well-paid blow-in" and said she had worked hard for the party for almost two decades "and not for £92,000-a-year like Emma".
She also said that she didn't share her party's stance on gay rights and would attend the gay marriage of a family member if asked.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph from her south Belfast home, Ms Patterson last night warned the DUP she had no intention of retiring from politics and said she wasn't scared of challenging the party at the polls.
"I will take time to consider my options but, God willing, I might put myself before the electorate in south Belfast in May. My former party is on notice that I am coming for the seat.
"I will stand before the electorate on my record, on my principles and with the promise that I will not flip-flop and I will not U-turn," she said.
The former DUP politician said she would remain on Belfast City Council as an independent.
"I have been deeply touched by the many messages of support I've received over the weekend, not just from my own area of south Belfast, but right across the country," she added.
"People want politicians who are open, honest and accountable. In that regard, they know they can trust me."
Ms Patterson received the letter expelling her on Friday morning. It claimed that she had broken internal rules.
"Party officers have terminated your membership with immediate effect for bringing the party into disrepute," it said.
The letter was written last Wednesday, the same day that Ms Patterson's hard-hitting interview appeared in the Belfast Telegraph. It gave her a fortnight to appeal the decision and was signed by DUP secretary and Regional Development Minister, Michelle McIlveen.
Ms Patterson said: "I have been a party member for 17 years and a councillor for 14 years so it felt like being kicked in the stomach.
"It was a very brutal way of getting rid of someone who has worked so hard for the party for so long.
"My 91-year-old mother was a founding DUP member in Dungannon and is still in the party. I went to see her on Saturday and, as I told her I'd been expelled, I shed some tears.
"Speaking out publicly against the party has cost me dearly, both politically and personally, yet I believe it was the right thing to do. I have been buoyed by others with strong principles who have taken on the DUP."
Ms Patterson said she had been expelled from the party for defending the principles that caused her to join in the first place: "I have not left my party, the DUP has left me.
"As a former member of the UDR, I joined because I felt the 1998 Belfast Agreement was a reprehensible betrayal. The DUP in the past pledged that it would not even negotiate or speak to the representatives of terrorism.
"Now it is clear from the words of the Chief Constable and others that an armed IRA continues to exist and that its Army Council controls Sinn Fein. Yet the DUP is sustaining the surrogates of the IRA Army Council in government."
Ms Patterson said that by being in government with Sinn Fein under those circumstances, the DUP - just like the UUP before it - was "making a mockery of the sacrifice of the RUC, UDR, British Army and innocent victims who lost their lives during the IRA's long terror campaign".
She accused her party of pursuing the same policies for which it had lambasted David Trimble.
"I have come to realise that the DUP today are no different from the UUP of 1998. Both have surrendered every principle they stood for," she said.
"When it suited, both have U-turned on promises they made to the electorate. They are on the same roundabout, the same path of betrayal, they just passed the Rubicon at different times."
DUP leader, Peter Robinson, informed the media of Ms Patterson's expulsion at his party's annual conference on Saturday.
She said: "I made a conscious decision to speak out against the leadership of the party. As a result, Peter Robinson has sought to wreak his revenge on the day of his final party conference as leader.
"It should have been his moment of glory.
"Instead, it turned into a fiasco not unlike the situation created in south Belfast by parachuting in Emma Pengelly."
The ex-DUP councillor said that despite being "treated despicably" by the party, she wished her former leader well.
"I wish Peter Robinson a long, happy and, above all else, healthy retirement.," she said.
"I am proud to have been a DUP member and to have represented the party on the council.
"But now that I'm an independent, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, my spirit is free and the shackles that bound me have gone."