The silence was deafening yesterday from newly-elected Ulster Unionist MLAs asked to support leader Tom Elliott’s controversial election count comments ahead of a crunch party meeting.
Nonetheless, Mr Elliott did not appear to be facing immediate pressure to stand down following his controversial labelling of a section of Sinn Fein supporters as “scum”.
The 16-strong Assembly team was expected to meet, however, without knowing whether independent unionist MLA David McClarty will rejoin the fold.
It was anticipated the UUP MLAs will swing behind Mr Elliott as leader, without supporting his comments which have drawn criticism from across the political spectrum and shocked the liberal wing of his own party.
With Mr Elliott coming under further pressure as the party sustained losses in the local government election — particularly in Belfast — the focus returned to Mr McClarty, who confirmed he was considering his position. The East Londonderry MLA, who spoke with Mr Elliott by telephone, said: “It was an amicable conversation.
“The party spent a lot of money campaigning to ensure that I wasn’t elected, but Tom was gracious enough to offer his congratulations. I will make my decision and I will make the right decision for the people who elected me. But as the election was approaching I was becoming more and more convinced that it was no longer an advantage to be in the Ulster Unionist Party.”
As Mr Elliott continued to resist calls to withdraw his remarks, Alliance said other leading UUP representatives, such as Mike Nesbitt, should make clear whether they support Mr Elliott’s remarks.
Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy said: “These disgraceful remarks were a throwback to Northern Ireland's past.
“Many UUP supporters are shocked at what was said and I believe that others in the UUP must tell the public whether they hold the same views as Mr Elliott.
“These nasty comments show the true colours of the UUP leader and I believe the party needs to immediately clarify whether they back his views or not.
“If they do back his views, many who have given the UUP their vote could abandon the party.”
Mr Nesbitt said he was not questioning the leadership of Mr Elliott and had travelled “the length and breadth” of Northern Ireland with him over the last 18 months.
He said he knew his party leader as a man who wanted a province at peace with itself.
His colleague Danny Kinahan said Mr Elliott was a man who wants Stormont to work, although he would not have used the language the UUP boss did at the Omagh |count.