UUP councillor Jim Rodgers facing disciplinary action by party over anti-Alliance leaflet
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers has had the party whip removed and been referred to the party's disciplinary committee over a controversial anti-Alliance Party election leaflet.
In the run up to the Local Government Election, a leaflet for Mr Rodgers and fellow UUP councillor Peter Johnston in the Ormiston area of east Belfast alleged that the Alliance Party was "closely aligned" with the "IRA's political wing".
The leaflet was widely condemned, with the UUP stating it was not sanctioned by the party.
Alliance leader Naomi Long referred the leaflet to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards.
“This is a deliberate attempt by the UUP to link Alliance members to the IRA, in an area where our offices have been attacked, representatives have received death threats and some have been forced to leave their homes due to previous raising of tensions by the UUP and others,” she said.
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On Monday evening, it emerged that Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has taken disciplinary action against Jim Rodgers over the episode.
"In relation to the leaflet and the fallout from that, I will say today that I have actually removed the party whip from Jim Rodgers and will be referring him to the party disciplinary committee," he told BBC Radio Ulster.
"The message, and we said it clear when the leaflet was first brought to my attention, I said it was not language we would use, it was language I wouldn't use and it didn't help the overall interests of the Ulster Unionist Party."
Jim Rodger's was re-elected to Belfast City Hall at the weekend, in an election that saw the party suffer significant losses across Northern Ireland's councils.
The party's most high-profile Catholic representative, Stephen McCarthy, claimed the leaflet cost him his council seat.
Mr McCarthy, who was seeking re-election to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, accused Jim Rodgers of "damaging and misrepresenting" the party.
"I believe that Jim Rodgers' leaflet cost me my seat. It came up countless times on the doors," he said.
"The leaflet certainly isn't the only reason for the losses we suffered but it did inflict significant damage on the party and our candidates.
"It was totally at odds with our message of progressive unionism. It represented dog-whistle politics. He personally didn't pay the price but the party and others did and that is very hard to swallow."
Mr Rodgers' former Belfast City Council colleague, Jeff Dudgeon, who lost his seat, said: "I don't think Jim's leaflet helped me during the election campaign, I think it hindered me."
Belfast Telegraph Digital