Jim Rodgers made a 'scapegoat' for UUP poor election performance
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers has been made a scapegoat for the party's poor performance in the location government elections, a Belfast councillor who lost his seat has claimed.
UUP leader Robin Swann withdrew the whip from Mr Rodgers after he distributed a leaflet saying the Alliance Party had a record of "voting with the Provisional IRA's political wing".
The UUP lost 13 seats in the recent election, losing five in Belfast.
For a full breakdown visit our Election hub and check out the results from each council: Antrim and Newtownabbey --- Ards and North Down --- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon --- Belfast --- Causeway Coast and Glens --- Derry and Strabane --- Fermanagh and Omagh --- Lisburn and Castlereagh --- Mid and East Antrim --- Mid Ulster --- Newry, Mourne and Down
Former UUP councillor Stephen McCarthy blamed Mr Rodgers for losing him his seat, accusing him of "damaging and misrepresenting" the party.
However, David Browne, who was a councillor for more than 25 years, told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme that the UUP's treatment of Mr Rodgers was "disgraceful".
"There were many reasons why we lost seats," Mr Browne said.
"In my particular area, the working class didn't come out and the middle class did come out and that's why I lost my seat."
Mr Browne said as UUP group leader on Belfast City Council he had seen and approved the leaflet.
"I think it's disgraceful that Jim Rodgers is being disciplined over this, because anybody who wants to look at the voting record of Alliance in Belfast City Council, they will see how many times the Alliance Party have voted with Sinn Féin."
Mr Browne said the leaflet was not mentioned when he was canvassing for votes in the weeks leading up to the election.
"I can say with my hand on my heart, not one single person mentioned it to me," he said.
"I think Jim's being used as a scapegoat. It's because we didn't get a good vote."
Alliance leader Naomi Long said she had talked to Mr Swann at the election count and had accepted an apology.
"I respect the fact that Robin has apologised. I'm accepting the apology and moving on," she said.
"If at any time Jim wants to apologise I have no doubt whatsoever that that apology would be well received.
"But he hasn't, he has defended his position and has said the leaflet was justified."
Belfast Telegraph Digital