Belfast Telegraph

Basil McCrea parties with Tina McKenzie while NI21 falls apart with resignation of its only councillor

Basil McCrea in Periscope during the party at Tina McKenzie's house.
Basil McCrea in Periscope during the party at Tina McKenzie's house.
Johnny McCarthy announced he has quit the NI21 political party

By Rebecca Black and Jonny Bell

NI21 leader Basil McCrea shared video footage of him partying at ex-chairwoman Tina McKenzie's home last night - while the political party fell apart with the shock resignation of its only councillor.

On Tuesday Johnny McCarthy, the only member of NI21 to be elected under its banner, announced his decision to leave the party.

The Lisburn councillor said he would remain as an independent for his council term before deciding on his political future.

Hours later, party founder Basil McCrea took to live-streaming social network Periscope to broadcast video footage of a Christmas party at the home of Ms McKenzie.

She publicly quit NI21 on election day 2014, just an hour before voting closed, as she ran for the European Parliament.

"Just wanted to show you that we in Northern Ireland know how to party," said Mr McCrea in a broadcast entitled 'Storm Frank rages outside but inside there's a party #CurtainCall'.

He panned his phone around to show revellers enjoying a large spread of food and drink while a band plays.

At one stage the 56-year-old handed his phone to a fellow party-goer to film him dancing.

At one point in the footage, Ms McKenzie refers to "Basil's traumatic day".

In order to talk with his followers - and to get a better signal - the former Ulster Unionist retreated to the living room, complete with real Christmas tree which Ms McKenzie boasts about, to answer their questions.

Some of those watching asked about Johnny McCarthy's announcement.

With the party in full swing in the background, Mr McCrea replied: "It's a wee bit late for politics.

"As far as Johnny is concerned, he has made his decision and we respect his decision and that's the end of it and we wish him well for the future."

One of those tuning in was the late Lord Bannside's son Kyle Paisley, who asked if the party was a person short.

"We've already covered that Kyle," said Mr McCrea.

The series of broadcasts ended when he was told to put the "phone down and dance".

He did, however, promise a "proper periscope" on Wednesday night.

Johnny McCarthy won a council seat in Lisburn last year.

Mr McCarthy said he felt resigning was the right thing to do, but has not elaborated on his reasons. It is understood it may centre around disagreements with the party's leader.

But his resignation means NI21 now has just one representative - its founder, Mr McCrea. He was elected as an MLA in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 as a member of the UUP.

NI21 was set up in 2013 by Mr McCrea and Mr McCallister after they left the UUP in opposition to the then-leader Tom Elliott's decision to enter into an electoral pact with the DUP for the Mid Ulster by-election.

The fledgling party contested a number of seats in the European and local government elections in 2014. However, a public spat between Mr McCrea, Mr McCallister and Ms McKenzie overshadowed their efforts.

Mr McCallister quit in July 2014 after backing an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Mr McCrea.

Stormont's Standards and Privileges Committee is investigating the allegations against Mr McCrea. It is understood a report will be published in February.

Mr McCarthy's election in Lisburn was the party's only success despite targeting several seats.

Yesterday morning he announced he was leaving NI21.

He tweeted: "After a long period of consideration, I have decided to leave NI21. I regret having to make this decision and wish the party well."

Mr McCarthy added he plans to remain an independent councillor until the end of his term, but has not made any further decisions after that about whether or not he will remain in politics.

In a Facebook update, he said: "Serious post for once. After a long period of consideration I have decided to leave NI21. I feel I can work better outside of the party. Some people may wonder why I have stayed as long as I did and it is because I fully believed in the idea of NI21 and the need for a party that is non-sectarian and promotes the use of evidence to create policy and not ideology. I do regret having to come to this decision but it is the right thing for me to do."

In a light-hearted sign-off, he added: "Now has anyone got the DUP's number?"

Mr McCarthy did not respond to attempts to contact him yesterday. He said he had no comment to make on the matter.

Belfast Telegraph


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