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UUP veteran McNarry is expelled from the party as new leader Mike Nesbitt lays down the law

By Liam Clarke

Veteran UUP politician David McNarry has been expelled from the party after a disciplinary meeting .

It is understood that the Assembly member for Strangford, who is on holiday abroad, did not attend the meeting — a possible grounds for appeal.

In a brief statement, the UUP said a disciplinary committee met yesterday to discuss complaints made against Mr McNarry, and “unfortunately found it necessary to expel him from the party”.

“We followed due process and arrived democratically at our decision,” the party said.

It added: “Given that Mr McNarry has the right to appeal this decision it would not be appropriate for the party to make any further comment at this time.”

One of the complaints against Mr McNarry was that he had acted against the best interests of the party by claiming that five of its 16 MLAs had told him they were considering resigning the party whip and joining him on the opposition benches.

Despite this claim, which Mr McNarry made in April, he remained adamant that he intended to rejoin the party’s Assembly group and take up its whip as soon as his period of suspension ran out.

In recent years Mr McNarry has been an advocate of closer links with the DUP, although up until now he has said that he has no intention of joining it.

He sent in a letter of resignation to the UUP last June after it lost two Assembly seats and the DUP gained two. He felt a united approach could have preserved the UUP position and pointed out the UUP had lost a ministry, putting them down to one seat down on the Executive, something which he blamed on infighting.

The UUP rebel was persuaded to stay on by Tom Elliott, then party leader, who put him in charge of talks with the DUP. But he revealed details of these to the Belfast Telegraph on January 23, saying he had Mr Elliott’s approval. However, Mr Elliott claimed he had gone too far and disciplined him.

Mr McNarry had been a thorn in the leadership’s side but expelling him will be seen as a high risk strategy. Mr McNarry is Assistant Grand Master of the Orange Order, which is a strong advocate of unionist unity.

Mike Nesbitt is the first UUP leader not to be a member of the Order and disciplining Mr McNarry on this issue could put further strain on the UUP ties to the institution.

Mr McNarry and Mr Nesbitt are both MLAs for Strangford. In the last election the UUP gained a seat at the DUP’s expense.

If Mr McNarry joined the DUP or didn’t stand for election, the UUP could lose a seat, either to the DUP or the SDLP — who were just 44 votes short of a quota last time.

Background

David McNarry’s problems with the UUP started with an interview published by the Belfast Telegraph on January 23 in which he outlined unionist unity talks with the DUP. Tom Elliott, the former party leader, promptly stripped him of a Stormont committee chairmanship for alleged indiscretion. Mr McNarry then resigned the whip. He was suspended from the Assembly party for nine months.

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