Belfast Telegraph

TUV's Jolene Bunting's 'heartbreak' over party's Assembly election snub

TUV say it had to make 'tough decisions'

By Claire Williamson

TUV councillor Jolene Bunting has told of her 'heartbreak' at being barred from running for North Belfast in the forthcoming Assembly election - saying that she feels she "no longer has the support" of the party.

In 2014 Ms Bunting became the first TUV councillor to be voted onto Belfast City Council.

Shortly after this she was forced to apologise after sectarian rants she posted online as a teenager resurfaced.

However she said on Thursday that the posts were being "cast up" by members of her party to not allow her to run as a candidate in north Belfast.

In a Facebook post, she said: "I can understand Republican Trolls using these screenshots, of silly things I said as a teenager (and have since apologised for).

"However, it is totally heartbreaking to have these posts cast up by members of my own party, as an excuse, along with others, not to provide the people of North Belfast with the opportunity to vote for a TUV candidate.

"Today party officers, made it very clear that I do not have the support of the party. I have some hard thinking to do over the next few days.

"No matter what the outcome over the next couple of days, I will continue to do my upmost (sic) to improve the lives and environment for the constituents of Court DEA (Great Shankill)

"I love and care for my community, that will never change."

A TUV statement said to give candidates the "best change of success" the party must "take tough decisions".

It said: "TUV will be announcing our candidates for the Assembly Election in the near future.

“The realities of an Assembly election are that as a party we must cut our cloth accordingly to give all of our candidates the best chance of success. Sometimes that means taking tough decisions.

“Members of the TUV officer team met with councillor Jolene Bunting this morning (January 26).

“Officers expressed the view that in light of the party’s disappointing performance in the constituency in last year’s Assembly poll and the fact that branch finances are very low it was not viable to contest in North Belfast.

“TUV has supported councillor Jolene Bunting as best we could as she has adapted to being a councillor. We will continue with that support."

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