Belfast Telegraph

Neither Beattie nor Aiken fit to lead UUP, says ex-councillor

Ulster Unionist politicians Steve Aiken (left) and Doug Beattie
Ulster Unionist politicians Steve Aiken (left) and Doug Beattie
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The former Ulster Unionist group leader on Belfast City Council has said neither Steve Aiken nor Doug Beattie are fit to lead the party and both "belong in Alliance".

David Browne, who was a councillor for more than 25 years, was speaking after Mr Beattie announced he was not contesting the leadership and was supporting Mr Aiken.

"The good news is you are not standing for the leadership of the party," Mr Browne told the Upper Bann MLA.

"The bad news is Steve Aiken is standing for the leadership of the party. In my opinion, you both would be better suited in the Alliance Party.

"We need to get back to the traditional Ulster Unionist Party I joined over 30 years ago. It's heart-breaking to watch."

Mr Browne was one of five Belfast UUP councillors who lost their seats in May's election, leaving the party with just two representatives on a council they once dominated.

Mr Beattie did not reply to the comment on his Facebook page. However, the UUP MLA received strong support from many unionists who urged him to reconsider his decision not to contest the leadership.

Some also questioned Mr Aiken's suitability for the job.

One wrote: "Think you have made the wrong decision Doug ... as a member of the UUP I really believe for me personally it's time for me to leave the party. Steve Aiken as leader means that we are heading for extinction and it's time to get off the submarine."

Another posted: "Whilst I like who you'll be supporting, I think your party would attract more voters if you were the frontman."

A further poster added: "Wrong choice. He's clever enough, but this country requires a leader of heroic stature - Doug Beattie MC MLA."

Another unionist said he didn't think Mr Aiken could breathe fresh life into the UUP. "Another empty suit with no charisma is definitely the answer to 20 years of decline. Vast majority of electorate couldn't pick Aiken out of a line up," they wrote.

Another person posted: "Steve Aiken is like the Northern Irish version of a woke remoaner.

"I'd vote for you Doug. However, I can't see me voting for Steve, just like I couldn't vote for Mike Nesbitt. It's my opinion that Mike Nesbitt set the UUP back decades."

The leader to succeed Robin Swann will be selected at a special party meeting next month. So far, Mr Aiken is the only candidate declared.

One unionist wrote: "The UUP is finished if Steve Aiken gets leader. Mike Nesbitt and now Steve Aiken and the present boy (Robin Swann) didn't do much good."

Mr Beattie strongly defended Mr Aiken, who is a close friend. "I'd just ask for you to give Steve a little time. Everyone deserves a fair shout," he said.

A DUP supporter posted: "I've been a DUP voter for 16 years since I turned 18. I now have serious doubts in the interests of the DUP. I feel they are in it for themselves and not the unionist people.

"I hope you reconsider this decision as I feel you are the most progressive unionist candidate who has separated yourself from the traditional Union flag-waving politicians of the past, but still have the British ethos in your heart. Listening to you is refreshing and you come across with decency and honesty, something that is rare these days."

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