A FORMER Vice Chair of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Chair of the Foyle Unionist Association has criticised the direction taken by the leader of his former party.
Terry Wright, who recently quit the UUP after five decades, told the Sentinel that overnight news that the UUP has endorsed a unionist unity candidate in the forthcoming Mid Ulster By-Election is not only predictable but a further serious denigration of the identity of the UUP.
Last night, former Deputy Leader of the UUP, John MacCallister resigned on BBC politics programme ‘The View’ and this morning another prominent UUP man, Basil McCrea, who last week underwent internal UUP disciplinary action resigned from the party, live on BBC Radio Ulster. It has also emerged that ex-UUP MLA for East Londonderry, David McClarty has said he will enter into talks with McCrea and MacCallister about the formation of a new unionist party. Mr McClarty retained his seat in East Londonderry as an independent unionist in 2010 after a highly public hiatus within his constituency association.
In a statement released a short while ago, Terry Wright told the Sentinel: “A short time ago I left the UUP. At the time I made clear my growing unease at the direction in which the party was going. From the Party Conference onwards comments emanating from the Centre, inferences and actions pointed to the all too predictable outcome apparent in the decision taken by the UUP in Mid-Ulster yesterday.
“In taking the decision the UUP has abandoned the centre ground and disenfranchised those who want to move away from sectarian head counts. It is clearly of the view that it has no appeal outside religious and communal divisions. No attempt to hide behind victims issues and claims at maximising a unionist vote, on ‘ this occasion ‘, can take away from this conclusion.
“If this is the vision and the values to which the UUP now adheres then it indicative of blinkered politics and failing leadership has surrendered before engaging in the contest. In view of this I applaud the courage and adherence to deep-felt principles of John MacCallister MLA in resigning from the UUP. His actions show where the true leadership lies.
From the many conversations I had with MLAs and party members before leaving the party it is clear that there will be others who share the misgiving which have led John MacCallister to resign. They have maintained a public silence and adopted a stance of damage limitation.
“The damage to unionism and potentially to the country is such that this position is not sustainable.
“The Mid-Ulster election is likely to become a bitter and emotional contest. It is not what the country needs set against the heightened tensions of the flag protests , Easter commemorations and Parades in the not too distant future.
“In the long run, thanks to the actions of John MacCallister, it will hold up to public gaze the choices which this community must make.”