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Blunt talk about UUP man was a bad call

By Noel McAdam

The Ulster Unionists got their wires crossed when a phone call attacking Assembly deputy speaker David McClarty was recorded — on Mr McClarty’s phone.

In the call, the disaffected Assembly Member, who is running in his East Londonderry constituency as an independent after being deselected, was described as “a spent force”.

It was made by the party’s local association chairman Norman Hillis to the man who replaced veteran MLA McClarty on the party ticket, David Harding.

Mr Hillis, who has been chairman for 10 years, said: “It was just a private conversation not intended for his ears but I do not regret anything that I said. I was speaking on a landline and must have leaned on my mobile and it went through to his voicemail.

“I am just surprised that he has made this public, and would point out it took place after the selection, so was not part of any plot to oust him.”

In the six-minute call Mr Hillis also said he believed Mr McClarty was “toast” and “burnt-out” and agreed his deselection was unlikely to be overturned by the party’s executive.

“It is quite a bizarre circumstance but I do not feel embarrassed,” Mr Harding said.

“Both Norman and myself would be fairly blunt and straight-talking and we were just going over the factual situation.”

Mr McClarty, however, called the conversation “disrespect bordering on betrayal”.

“There is an attitude that politics is a dirty game, and indeed at times it can be,” he said.

“I was naive enough to believe that people whom you are working with in the same party would be supporting one another, and that has proved not to be the case.”

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