Belfast Telegraph

NI21 leader Basil McCrea vows 'I'm here for the long term' after week of further turmoil within party

Basil McCrea
Basil McCrea
Johnny McCarthy, left, with NI21 leader Basil McCrea at their party conference.
Basil McCrea, centre, joins thousands of people take part in the annual Belfast Gay Pride event in Belfast city centre.
Former NI21 chair Tina McKenzie
Top guns: NI21 leader Basil McCrea (left) and deputy John McCallister launched the party in a blaze of glory

Basil McCrea has said he is in politics for the long run, following a week that has further rocked his fledging party.

Earlier this week, Johnny McCarthy the only member of NI21 to be elected under its banner and its deputy leader announced his departure from the party.

Basil McCrea, in his regular broadcast #CurtainCall on social media platform Periscope, said last night he was in it for the long run and people would return to his party.

The Lagan Valley MLA also discussed his previous night's broadcast from a Christmas Party at former NI21 chair Tina McKenzie's house.

Mr McCrea criticised the media for reporting his attendance at the house party, saying it was a long held engagement and he was not afraid to celebrate.

He said: "Imagine people going out for Christmas - shock horror probe."

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

The MLA again said he wished Mr McCarthy well following his decision to quit the party.

Asked if he knew the reason for the departure, he said: "That is something I can't help you with."

The Lisburn councillor's departure, he said, was "not the end of NI21".

He said: "I'm here for a reason, for the long term restructuring of politics in Northern Ireland.

"And anyone that tries to bring change often brings the wrath of the conservative establishment down on them."

Read more: NI21: Just when did things start going wrong?

He said NI21 had suffered a lot of damage over the last 18 months.

"And that's damage that's largely been unfair," he said.

"NI21 threatened the status quo and when you do that, you get a kickback from the establishment."

Mr McCrea said NI21 was more of a "movement than a membership organisation" but it was too early to say how many candidates the party would field in the 2016 election.

"What I intend to do with the party is stand as an idea.

"And over a period of time people will change, I think people will come to it."

McCrea said he would be out canvassing for the Assembly election in January.

"It'll not be canvassing as you know it," he said.

"There's a lot of people that want my seat, including me."

The former UUP man ruled out a return to Mike Nesbitt's party and to joining the Alliance party.

"And they wouldn't have me", he said.

"I'm pretty happy with where I am with NI21.

"People like the idea we had about new forward thinking politics and putting the past behind us.

"And the problem with the old traditional established parties is that they are wedded to the past they are forever attempting to re-write history and do it their own way."

At the end of the broadcast he played Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' before signing off with the theme music to the science fiction film 'Terminator'.

"I'll be back," he said before signing off.

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