15/02/2013

John McCallister Quits UUP

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Basil McCrea and deputy leader John McCallister are to resign.

The decisions are in protest at the UUP and DUP’s decision to back a joint candidate for the Mid Ulster by-election on 7 March.

The seat has become open following the stepping-down of deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

The candidate will be Nigel Lutton, who is the son of a former RUC reservist murdered by the IRA in 1979.

This strategy of unionist unity with the DUP has divided many people in the UUP.

Mr McCrea announced his intention to resign on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show.

He told Stephen Nolan the by-election was "squaring up to be a sectarian battle".

Mr McCallister revealed on BBC NI's politics show, The View, that he would quit.

"It is nothing personal about Nigel. It is not personal for me. It is about the principle," he said.

"I disagree strongly about the principle of unionist unity and I don't want to be a part of that."

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "The announcement that Nigel Lutton is to contest the by-election as an agreed Unionist standard bearer is tremendous news and will be welcomed by tens of thousands of unionists in both the Mid-Ulster area and more generally throughout Northern Ireland as a common-sense response to the demands to see unionists co-operating together."

Mr Lutton remarked: "I am looking forward to the campaign ahead. I am delighted to have received the endorsement of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party. Being the agreed unionist candidate, is a positive move for unionism in Mid-Ulster. I am a lifelong unionist and I want to see unionism strengthened.

"Northern Ireland is moving in the right direction. However, it can only continue to do so if those who believe in the Union use their vote to demonstrate their support. A vote for Lutton will be a vote for a better Northern Ireland."

(IT)

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