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Suspended DUP man Devenney 'to run and split vote'

By Donna Deeney

Published 12/02/2016

Former MLA: Maurice Devenney
Former MLA: Maurice Devenney

A suspended DUP councillor is likely to stand in the Assembly elections as an independent in a move that could cost the party a seat, it can be revealed.

Former MLA Maurice Devenney, a councillor for Londonderry, was suspended on Wednesday for bringing the party into disrepute after he allegedly asked voters during last year's general election to support the SDLP's Mark Durkan ahead of his own party's candidate Gary Middleton to prevent Sinn Fein winning.

Before he was suspended, Mr Devenney, who denies the allegation and has 14 days to appeal, submitted his name for consideration as a candidate in the May election, before withdrawing it.

Now, sources in the DUP have said Mr Devenney will contest the Foyle seat as an independent if he is expelled. Unionists believe they can win only one seat in Foyle, and that a second unionist candidate would split their vote. One source said: "Maurice has been involved with politics many years. I don't know whether he will appeal this suspension, but I believe he does not intend to leave the political arena, certainly at council level and probably at Stormont level too."

Mr Middleton, meanwhile, said he was looking forward to contesting the election on behalf of the DUP. "Whether Maurice decides to stand as an independent candidate or not is a matter for him," he added. "It is well documented that there is just one unionist seat available in Foyle. Multiple candidates can impact the outcome."

And DUP MLA Lord Morrow warned: "Previous election contests have shown the folly of a number of candidates contesting and jeopardising that single seat. Internal party selections create rivalries within parties, but they are generally of little interest to the public. What the people of Foyle want is an energetic, articulate and hard-working MLA. They will get that in Gary Middleton."

Mr Devenney was not available for comment when contacted.

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