A call by senior Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea for Sir Reg Empey to quit as party leader has been branded “reprehensible” by the party’s chief whip.
Fellow MLA Fred Cobain said almost everybody in the Assembly team had been “very annoyed” by Mr McCrea’s intervention.
And the North Belfast MLA said the issue of disciplinary action against Mr McCrea would be discussed at a meeting on Tuesday of next week.
Sir Reg appeared to be under no increased pressure to stand down early as leader, having already announced his intention to hand over the reins in the autumn.
Mr Cobain said: “I think it is reprehensible for anybody to try to besmirch Reg Empey in this way. He is only doing what he has been asked to do.
“It wasn’t Sir Reg who decided he was staying on — it was the party which asked him to do so and this now from Basil McCrea makes no sense whatsoever.”
Mr McCrea said Sir Reg should resign to allow the party to restructure ahead of next May’s Assembly election.