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How the hopes and dreams of Basil McCrea's NI21 party ended in abject failure

Published 02/03/2016

NI21’s only councillor Johnny McCarthy with party leader Basil McCrea prior to elections
NI21’s only councillor Johnny McCarthy with party leader Basil McCrea prior to elections
Johnny McCarthy, left, with NI21 leader Basil McCrea at their party conference.

February 2013: Basil McCrea resigns from the Ulster Unionist Party following a disciplinary process for publicly opposing unionist unity candidate Nigel Lutton for the Mid-Ulster by-election. He opposed working with the DUP.

June 6, 2013: NI21 is officially launched by Mr McCrea and John McCallister at the MAC in Belfast, with around 400 people attending, as a "modern, inclusive party for the 21st century". Businesswoman Tina McKenzie was appointed chairwoman.

April 23, 2014: NI21 launch an ambitious list of 47 candidates for the local government elections, and announce Tina McKenzie as its European candidate

May 21, 2014: The party implodes on European and local government election day. John McCallister described it as "dysfunctional". NI21 failed to break the 2% barrier and only one candidate is elected - Johnny McCarthy for Lisburn and Castlereagh District Council. Tina McKenzie, the party chair and Euro candidate, resigned before the polls had closed on May 22.

May 24: Basil McCrea is accused of sexual harassment. Deputy leader of the party John McCallister called on Mr McCrea to step down until an investigation by independent counselling group Carecall was carried out to establish the facts.

July 2014: John McCallister accuses Basil McCrea of interfering with the Carecall investigation and resigns from the party. Former NI21 worker Ashleigh Murray makes a complaint about Basil McCrea to the Assembly Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain.

July 11, 2014: Ashleigh Murray walks out of Stormont probe into the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Basil McCrea, stating that she is just too traumatised to continue.

May 7, 2015: NI21 does not field any candidates in the Westminster election.

May 25, 2015: John McCallister tells the Belfast Telegraph in an interview that NI21 is dead, and Basil McCrea is to blame.

October 2015: Two official complaints are made to Stormont's Standards and Privileges Committee about the Commissioner for Standards, Douglas Bain, who is investigating the allegations against Mr McCrea. The two witnesses have claimed they were unhappy with the way they were treated by Mr Bain during interview. They additionally raised concerns over his handling of such a sensitive investigation.

December 29, 2015: Johnny McCarthy, the only person to ever be elected under the NI21 banner, resigns from the party.

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