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Need for a new, moderate unionist party in Northern Ireland, says former Justice Minister

Independent MLA Claire Sugden
Independent MLA Claire Sugden

There have been calls for a new, moderate unionist party to be established in Northern Ireland.

MLA and former Justice Minister Claire Sugden made the comments in the wake of two bruising elections for the Ulster Unionist Party.

Earlier this week, the party lost their seat in the European Parliament - a seat it had held since 1979.

The poor showing followed a disastrous performance in the local government elections, where the party lost 13 seats.

Back in 2013, there was a attempt to grow a new, moderate pro-Union party in the form of NI21, however it lasted less than three years and only managed to get one councillor elected.

Speaking on the BBC's The View, independent unionist Claire Sugden said there needs to be an alternative to the DUP and UUP for moderate unionists.

"I think there is space for potentially a new unionist party, or indeed a unionist party that can represent the moderate voice of unionism," she said.

"Because that currently doesn't exist with the DUP, or even the Ulster Unionist Party.

"And I think what the Alliance Party have been able to do in these last couple of months, is perhaps fill the gap that moderate unionism hasn't been able to do because there is simply no-one representing them."

Ms Sugden said she remains independent because the DUP and Ulster Unionists "do not represent the values I believe in" and she would potential join a new moderate party.

"I think the union is very important. I absolutely understand that Northern Ireland is best served within the context of the United Kingdom," she said.

"But equally, I also want to talk about other issues including equal marriage, better education systems, better health care systems and I'm not finding the space to do that within the DUP and Ulster Unionists.

"So I will remain independent for now, but if we were to have perhaps a more moderate unionist voice on the hill, that might be something I would be attracted to."

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