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UUP bids to stop leadership battle ending up in court

Efforts are being made by party officers to prevent court action over the Ulster Unionist leadership contest, it emerged last night.

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this week, questions over the party’s official membership list could also threaten to delay the result.

Candidates Tom Elliott and Basil McCrea had been told they could not be given the list because of Data Protection legislation. But now they have been informed by letter that they will be given access to the list, under strictly supervised conditions, at a meeting next week.

Party officers will be present to ensure the rivals do not take the list away with them or copy from it.

Mr McCrea and Mr Elliott had no immediate comment to make but both are expected to attend the meeting, probably on Monday.

A party spokeswoman also denied that leadership candidates had been shown the membership list in the past.

There are fears that many on the list have not paid dues and in some cases have missed several deadlines to do so.

Letters have been sent to some individuals informing them they cannot take part in the vote on Wednesday, September 22.

Meanwhile, DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr has hit out at Mr Elliott’s claims that the St Andrews negotiations which led to the restoration of devolution could result in Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister.

“Mr Elliott and his opponent Mr McCrea have so little positive to say about each other or their party that they have resorted to attacks on other unionists in the DUP,” the North Antrim MP said.

“Tom Elliott’s comments are a prime example of the type of nasty misinformation that has characterised inter-unionist debate in the past.

“How any person can truthfully assert that the St Andrews Agreement opened up the possibility of a Sinn Fein First Minister is beyond comprehension. It clearly did not.

“Changes to the St Andrews Agreement were the handiwork of the direct rule administration and were forced through Parliament on a cross-party vote.”

But Mr Elliott retorted: “Ian Paisley jnr should stop pontificating and make clear if he will support my call for a change to the legislation regarding the appointment of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”

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