A former UUP official in Co Tyrone feels he has been “shafted” by the party after it failed to ratify the local association’s decision to choose him as the candidate for May’s Assembly election.
Castlederg man Andy McKane (51) and his wife Karen resigned last week after the leadership nominated former Irish senator Ian Marshall to run in West Tyrone instead.
This was despite the West Tyrone UUP Association unanimously selecting Mr McKane to run in the constituency.
He accused the party of offering him the incentive of standing in the next election for Derry City and Strabane Council at the expense of Derek Hussey if he stepped aside.
Councillor Hussey was unaware of such a deal.
The deciding vote on the six-strong selection panel came down to Doug Beattie, and Mr McKane said the UUP leader was “always going to back” Markethill farmer Mr Marshall, as he had encouraged him to join the party last year.
Mr McKane’s revelations are another blow to the party in West Tyrone.
It comes after the local association criticised Mr Beattie following its “unanimous” rejection of Mr Marshall as a candidate in November.
Meanwhile, Mr Hussey revealed earlier this week he had been suspended by the party in December following his criticism of the candidate selection process.
In the 2019 Westminster general election Mr McKane received 2,774 votes, increasing the UUP’s tally from 2,253 in 2017.
He said he felt he should have been given the chance to run for the Assembly.
Mr McKane, who is employed by the NHS as a support worker in mental health, said there was “total disillusionment” among Ulster Unionist members in West Tyrone.
“Doug had the casting vote and it was Doug who brought Ian Marshall into the party,” he added.
“Doug was always going to vote for Ian Marshall, and all he needed was the panel to vote 3-3 and he had the deciding vote.
“I am completely disappointed because I increased the vote in West Tyrone, and nobody could understand (why I was rejected).
“The West Tyrone association chose me, and to bring Ian Marshall in was to add insult to injury.”
Mr McKane said he had been approached by other parties to run in the Assembly election but said he had no intention of doing so as he had been disillusioned by the process, and still saw himself as an Ulster Unionist.
“At this moment in time I have no great desire to join any other party,” he said.
“To go as an independent, the concern would be that you would split the vote and no unionist would get in in West Tyrone.
“I would be putting a unionist seat before my selfishness or my ego.
“It was never about my ego... but I was just treated extremely unfairly.
“What I have said, the whole of the West Tyrone association knows. It’s no wild secret.”
The Ulster Unionist Party did not respond to Mr McKane’s comments last night, but it previously said it had selection processes and “every aspiring candidate has to abide by the same processes”.
“Andy entered the selection process and was interviewed as part of it,” the party stated at the time.
“Ian was also interviewed and he emerged as the successful candidate.
“Ian Marshall is a positive, confident unionist who is committed to strengthening Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.
“We are sorry to see Andy leave the party and we wish him well for the future.”