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McIlveen 'unlikely' to remain in the DUP after criticising party leader

By Jonny Bell

A former DUP MLA who broke ranks and criticised Arlene Foster has said he is "unlikely" to remain in the party.

David McIlveen accused his party's leadership of not knowing the difference between humility and humiliation and of avoiding issues he raised over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal. He said his criticism of Mrs Foster was nothing personal.

In yesterday's News Letter, the ex-Assemblyman said party members consider Mrs Foster "deeply damaged" and an "electoral liability" in the wake of the RHI fiasco. He said to centre an election campaign around the First Minister - as the party did at the last campaign - would now be impossible and she would be "unlikely" to lead the party into the next election.

In reply, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said Mr McIlveen was "sore" over his downfall at the ballot box and there was no evidence of disquiet in party ranks.

Mr McIlveen accused the DUP MP of not tackling the issues raised by him in the article.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I have a lot of respect for Sammy and can assure him that none of my opinions were designed to cause any offence.

"That said, how he responded is unfortunately symptomatic of the very issue I was trying to raise - by attacking me personally rather than facing up to the issues of public anger that are clearly out there at present shows a detachment from reality.

"Unfortunately the DUP leadership seem to be confused around the difference between humility and humiliation. The public have no desire to see our politicians reduced to the latter, but the former would go a long way to restoring faith in the way our politicians are viewed."

Mr McIlveen, who was MLA for North Antrim from 2011 to 2016, said it was "unlikely" he would remain in the party, when asked about his future. His father is Rev David McIlveen, a former Free Presbyterian minister and friend of the late Ian Paisley. He declined to comment yesterday.

In a statement he DUP said: "Former MLA David McIlveen is entitled to his personal opinions. However, this is the first time that he has articulated any view since losing his seat. The overwhelming support Arlene Foster has received from within the party and beyond, including messages from others right across Northern Ireland has been hugely heartening."

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