Callan switch first of three UUP defections

A Causeway Coast and Glens councillor claims he has switched allegiance from the UUP to DUP to be part of “mainstream” unionism.

Aaron Callan, who was elected to the local government authority two years ago after polling 452 first preference votes, said he had thought long and hard about his decision.

In a statement, he said: “It has become clear over the last twelve months that the DUP is now the mainstream unionist party. I have felt uncomfortable within the UUP, and its leader, for some time now given its drift further from what I believe are Unionist values and principles.

“First and foremost my interest is in best representing my constituents and my local area. The reason I stood for election in 2011 and 2014 was my love and passion for my local area of Limavady and the wider East Londonderry area.

“I have been concerned for some time that East Londonderry was becoming irrelevant to the members of the Ulster Unionist Assembly group. This has disheartened me greatly particularly at a time when so many other rank and file unionists are joining the DUP at grassroots level.”

Mr Callan’s addition brings the DUP’s representation on Causeway Coast and Glens Council to 12.

Welcoming the new party member, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Aaron’s move is yet another indication that the DUP is now the only unionist party that is capable of commanding support across the province.

“Many from an Ulster Unionist background are uniting around the DUP and have already joined with us since the Assembly election and I know Aaron will not be the last.”

DUP group leader, Councillor John Finlay said Mr Callan’s “economic insights and connections with the local community will add further depth and capacity to our councillor grouping”.

In a terse statement, the UUP said: “We have built our success in recent years on teamwork. On that basis councillor Callan is unlikely to be missed.”

Mr Callan’s was the first of three UUP defections last week with Belfast Councillor Graham Craig and North Antrim UUP Association secretary and former Assembly candidate Andrew Wright also joining the DUP.