DUP whistleblower Jenny Palmer to fight election for UUP
The controversial whistleblower who resigned from the DUP after allegations against one of the party's special advisers has been selected by Ulster Unionist Party to fight the Assembly election.
As widely expected, Jenny Palmer will be in the race for one of the seats in her Lagan Valley stronghold where she, along with her husband John, are already councillors on Lisburn and Castlereagh 'super-council'.
Mrs Palmer said it was "time for change" in the constituency where the DUP at present holds four of the six seats. The UUP lost a seat when MLA Basil McCrea quit the party in February 2013 in a clash with leader Mike Nesbitt.
Running with two other candidates who have a background in local government, Robbie Butler from Lisburn and Olive Mercer from Banbridge, Lagan Valley is a target constituency for the UUP.
Outlining his strategy Mr Nesbitt said: "The 2016 Assembly elections represent an opportunity for dramatic change, after eight long years of failure by the DUP/Sinn Fein-dominated Executive.
"The Ulster Unionist Party is determined to build on recent electoral successes by returning a fresh, energised team of MLAs, committed to taking the difficult decisions and delivering positive outcomes for all the people.
"Everyone now accepts what the joint First Ministers have served up to the electorate this mandate is not as good as it gets and that the people desire and deserve better."
The main focus is likely to be on Mrs Palmer, who was threatened with internal disciplinary action by the DUP earlier this year and accused of "bringing the party into disrepute".
Instead she resigned and, within a few months joined the UUP after Mr Nesbitt pulled its sole minister, Danny Kennedy, out of the Stormont Executive to become a self-styled opposition.
Mrs Palmer broke a two-year silence when she told the Spotlight programme three years ago that special adviser Stephen Brimstone attempted to pressurise her over a vote on the board of the Housing Executive on extending contracts to the controversial firm Red Sky.
The saga stretches back almost four years to April 2011 when the Housing Executive terminated its contracts with the firm, amid allegations of widespread overcharging. Red Sky later went into voluntary administration but there were allegations the DUP tried to show favouritism.
Mr Brimstone insisted he did not believe he would have said the phrases Mrs Palmer claimed, including the "party comes first, you do what you are told, otherwise there is no point in you being on the board". A Stormont committee backed her version of events.
She said yesterday: "Nobody can doubt my track record of putting the needs of the electorate first. As they say in the Ulster Unionist Party, it's country first, party second. The electorate are fed up with under-achieving on the issues that matter. I am looking forward to the challenge within Lagan Valley."