David McNarry blasts Ulster Unionists as he joins UKIP
Former UUP MLA David McNarry has joined the ranks of the United Kingdom Independence Party to become the eurosceptic organisation’s first representative in the devolved assemblies.
UKIP now plans to contest the European elections here in 2014, its leader Nigel Farage has revealed. That will worry Mr McNarry’s former Ulster Unionist colleagues who see their Euro seat as vulnerable to additional unionist runners.
Mr McNarry resigned from the UUP in January in a row over a Belfast Telegraph interview he gave about unionist unity talks.
Mr Farage said that Mr McNarry “brings vast political experience” to the party with him.
Yesterday was the first time Mr McNarry had met Mr Farage.
His recruitment was handled by Henry Reilly, another former UUP member who sits on South Down Council. Although Mr Reilly is UKIP’s only other elected representative here, the party has around 200 Northern Ireland members and sees Mr McNarry’s recruitment as a major boost.
Mr Reilly said: “I believe there will be more recruits to come, we are in touch with councillors from across the unionist spectrum and David is talking to another MLA.”
In departing, Mr McNarry took a dig at his former party’s falling
vote. He said: “I am not associated with anybody or anything that's in decline, and you best understand that. I'm on the way up.”
Dismissing rumours UKIP was considering contesting the Mid Ulster by-election when Martin McGuinness resigns his seat, Mr McNarry said: “It is the first I have heard of that one.”
Former UUP leader Lord Empey, hitting out at the defection, said: “Many people will appreciate the irony of a man who was wedded to the notion of unionist unity and the establishment of a single unionist party between the Ulster Unionists and the DUP, introducing a fourth unionist party into the Assembly in the form of UKIP.”
Last Monday, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt sacked John McCallister as deputy leader of the party’s Assembly group over a speech in which Mr McCallister complained of a perception that the party was “sleepwalking towards unionist unity”. Mr McCallister quit as health spokesman and later defended his comments in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.