Cobain leaves UUP to join rivals
A leading member of the Ulster Unionist Party has quit to join the rival Democratic Unionists.
Fred Cobain, 66, who was in the UUP for 31 years, said he believed the party was politically exhausted.
He said: "I have thought about this for a very long time. It is not a decision that I have taken lightly. I think have been really disillusioned with the party for a number of months. It is riven with personal and policy difficulties and I think that can only get worse into the future.
"I think the Ulster Unionist Party is a party that is best described as politically exhausted. I think the do not have any new ideas or big ideas."
Mr Cobain, a father of two was first elected to Belfast City Council in 1985. He served as Lord Mayor between 1990. He lost his seat as MLA for North Belfast in the last election.
The announcement was made by DUP leader and First Minister, Peter Robinson who claimed he would utilise Mr Cobain's working class connections.
Mr Robinson said: "He is a man who gets down on the ground and rolls his sleeves up. We are glad to have someone like Fred in the party."
This is the latest high profile defection to hit Mike Nesbitt's beleaguered Ulster Unionist party.
Last year David McNarry stood down after being disciplined over a press interview he gave on Unionist unity. He is now leader of Ukip at the Assembly. Last August UUP peer Lord Ken Magennis quit after a row about gay marriage. And, in 2011 East Londonderry MLA David McClarty resigned and ran as an independent after he was deselected.
Meanwhile, the party whip has also been removed from Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea over comments he made about the Union flag.