Belfast Telegraph

Retiring DUP councillor's parting shot at Poots exposes schism in party

By Rebecca Black

A DUP councillor has quit the party after claiming that he has been ostracised by "Paisleyites" since complaining about the son of a controversial former Stormont minister.

Roy Young has been a councillor in Lisburn since 2010, and involved in politics for almost four decades. But at a meeting of Lisburn City Council last night, he suddenly announced he was resigning from the DUP.

He said he will continue as an independent until April, when he will step down from politics.

Mr Young said he had sent a formal letter of resignation to DUP headquarters. He insisted he was happy with Peter Robinson's leadership, but felt uncomfortable at what he described as "a shift" in the DUP in Lisburn.

"Over the past 18 months I have noticed a change within the Lagan Valley constituency association and the DUP group on Lisburn City Council," he said.

"There seems to be a desire to go back to the Paisleyite DUP and I was not comfortable with that."

Mr Young revealed he had submitted a complaint about DUP councillor Luke Poots to party headquarters following the 'super council' elections last year.

Mr Young and Mr Poots had run in the same area, but only Mr Poots, son of former health minister Edwin Poots, was elected. Mr Young had concerns about how the local campaign had been run.

Mr Young said since submitting his complaint, he believed he had been shunned by colleagues.

"I have been ostracised by the Paisleyites and I decided that I needed to go," he said. "To be honest I feel a lot better now that I have resigned from the party."

Mr Young has been involved in politics for almost 40 years. He was initially an Ulster Unionist, but followed Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster to the DUP in 2003.

"Things were good then, there was a possibility that the DUP could have been the vehicle to unite unionism," he said.

"I was optimistic. There was a softening of attitudes, things were going well. But now it seems like the DUP in Lagan Valley has taken a hard line and I didn't like it so I am getting out."

Mr Young claimed that Edwin Poots was a massive influence on the DUP in Lagan Valley but described those loyal to the former minister as "lapdogs".

"I am happy with Peter Robinson's leadership, and I think Arlene Foster is doing a great job as minister, but in my opinion there are a couple of players in Lagan Valley who are continually trying to undermine them," he said.

The resignation is more evidence of a split between a pro-Robinson faction in Castlereagh and Edwin Poots' supporters in Lisburn. Mr Poots was stood down as health minister by First Minister Mr Robinson last September.

The rift between them deepened when Mr Poots went on the Stephen Nolan Show to claim that Mr Robinson intended to stand down within months. Then earlier this month, four DUP MLAs - including Mr Poots - did not vote for Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein to be Stormont's first republican Speaker.

Mr Young questioned why, since Mr Poots had voted for Francie Molloy and Mitchel McLaughlin as deputy speaker previously.

"It was a downright snub to Peter Robinson," he claimed. "He deserves the support of the whole party."

South Belfast DUP MLA and Robinson loyalist Jimmy Spratt said last night: "Roy is a decent, honourable man who was treated in a less favourable way by others in the area."

A DUP spokesman said it regretted Mr Young's decision to leave.

"Roy served the party in many roles and we thank him for his work and dedicated support even in recent weeks," he said.

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