Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has voiced sadness at the resignation of a woman hailed as a rising star in the party.
Paula Bradshaw quit the UUP after her bid to be a 2011 Assembly candidate in South Belfast was snubbed by local members last week. She had contested the seat in this year's General Election.
Mr Elliott said: “In her time as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party Paula has been a valuable member of the team. We are all grateful for her contribution and I must admit to being deeply disappointed by her decision.”
Female party representatives have meanwhile defended the party's record in encouraging women into its elected ranks. The party has no women MLAs.
Craigavon UUP councillor Jo-Anne Dobson said: “Women do and will continue to play a vital role within the Ulster Unionist Party, and anyone who suggests otherwise is doing the likes of me and our many councillors and party activists a great disservice.”
Mr Elliott yesterday met Prime Minister David Cameron at the Tory Party conference.
They discussed potential links between the parties, following the ending of their electoral pact.
The UUP leader said: “David was very positive about his desire to continue the link, and we agreed that there are many opportunities which flow from such a relationship.”