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New Ukip blow as senior figure jumps ship to Ulster Unionists

By Noel McAdam

Published 04/08/2016

Cohesion call: Alan Lewis
Cohesion call: Alan Lewis

A second senior figure has quit Ukip in Northern Ireland, claiming the local party has “lost direction”.

Regional secretary Alan Lewis defected to the Ulster Unionist Party yesterday after six years with Ukip.

He is the second senior member to depart, after Henry Reilly was suspended last November and then signed up with the TUV.

But the loss of Mr Lewis is a further blow to Ukip’s fortunes after it came within striking distance of an Assembly seat in East Antrim in the May election, with candidate Noel Jordan only eliminated at the last count.

In fact, Ukip has never secured an Assembly seat in its own right since its regional leader David McNarry switched from the UUP — the party which his former senior co-worker has now joined.

Mr Lewis said: “Ukip was a grassroots movement which engaged a lot of disenfranchised voters. I believe that Ukip helped energise and revitalise other political parties. Now that the referendum has been won, I feel I have given all I can give to the party in Northern Ireland. It’s unfortunate that the party locally has lost direction.

“I’ve no desire to criticise former colleagues, however I feel that the party will increasingly struggle to find relevance in Northern Ireland. Unionism demands political cohesion, not division.”

Mr McNarry, who stood down from his Strangford Assembly seat in May, said he was “shocked and surprised” and “felt betrayed” by Mr Lewis’ defection.

But in relation to the party “losing direction”, Mr McNarry responded: “He is entitled to his opinion, but he is a silly young man who does not have the experience or the wherewithal to make such a comment.

“I have told him he is making a huge mistake and he will realise it in time. He was a solid campaigner for leaving the EU and has now joined the ‘Remainers’.

“I would say the UUP was the most inappropriate party to join. Brexit has completely changed the fortunes of Ukip, not just in UK but the rest of the UK. We lost out in East Antrim, but we will get the seat next time.”

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