Former DUP MLA, Maurice Devenney said last night (Tuesday) that it was with a heavy heart that he had decided to resign as a member ofthe DUP.
His decision comes just a week after Mr Devenney was suspended from the party on the grounds that he had brought the party into disrepute during last year’s Westminster election, when he was accused of canvassing votes for the SDLP outside a polling station, by allegedly asking DUP supporters to give their votes to Mark Durkan of the SDLP.
Other than confirming the suspension and saying he was taking legal advice, Mr Devenney has remained silent on the matter. However, yesterday afternoon he contacted the Londonderry Sentinel to say that he “totally refuted” the allegation against him, and he added that he would not be appealing the decision.
Mr Devenney revealed that he was tendering his resignation from the DUP.
“I have been a member of the Democratic Unionist Party for almost 20 years,” Mr Devenney said.
“It is well known in the Foyle constituency that I have been a significant driver in terms of increased membership and promotion of the Foyle branch.
“It is quite clear that there has been a campaign waged against me over recent times, as a result of which I sought the appropriate and necessary legal advice. I refute totally that I was promoting the SDLP in preference to my own Party at the time, the DUP. This campaign recently culminated in the receipt of an email from the party, suspending me from membership and inviting an appeal, if I so desire.
“After much reflection and consideration, I have decided that there will be no appeal and I have resigned my membership of the Democratic Unionist Party, effecting from 11pm tonight (Tuesday). I have absolutely no intention whatsoever in making an appeal, when it is completely clear that there is likely to be a pre-determined outcome resulting in my membership being terminated,” he said.
“I have spent some time in deep and prayerful consideration over a number of months as to what to do and I have come to the conclusion that there is no future for dissent within the confines of the Democratic Unionist Party. I am not prepared to dilute my views or pander to the whims of others, and it is clear that the track record of the party against other individuals in recent times clearly indicates a desire to silence those whose faces do not fit.
“Quite obviously, a number of individuals have been discussing numerous issues outside the confines of the party. While this is disappointing, it has led to a number of approaches from other political parties seeking me to join their ranks.
“I have given lengthy consideration as to what I should do in the future and I have been overwhelmed by the support of various individuals in the Foyle area, not only from the Democratic Unionist Party, but also further afield.
“I have also been inundated with messages of support from party members outside the Foyle constituency,” Mr Devenney said.
In a reflective mood, Mr Devenney continued: “It is clear to me and my advisers that the party has moved away from the democratic principles espoused by the Late Dr Ian Paisley.
“The constituency branches are being used as foot soldiers when it suits, however, they have little or no say in the selection of candidates for election. It was made clear to me that I would be endorsed by the local Constituency Association to go forward for the Assembly election. However, it was also made clear to me that, even though I might be selected by the Constituency Association, I would not be acceptable to the party hierarchy and another person would be put forward.
“That to my mind is not democracy. I believe that local decisions need to be taken by local people and it is quite clear to me that, given the messages of support received in recent days, I have the overwhelming support of those who would have described themselves as Democratic Unionists in the locality.”
He continued: “There have also been suggestions in the Press around personal rivalries involving myself. I can assure the community that there is no personal rivalry with anyone as far as I am concerned, and anyone who believes otherwise is quite clearly well short of the mark. I am not in the business of attacking other Unionists, and I do not intend to do so moving forward. I do, however, reserve the right to defend myself.
“I believe that spurious and groundless complaints have been made against me, yet, when challenged, certain individuals were not prepared to advise as to the identity of those allegedly making those supposed complaints. I had concerns around what was going on and have done since early 2015. With this in mind, I have engaged a legal team to deal with all the matters relating to myself in terms of what I perceive to be a campaign of vilification against me.
“My legal team has been fully briefed and I will not hesitate to take appropriate action against those who seek to besmirch my reputation,” he said.
In concluding, Mr Devenney paid tribute to those who had supported him.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who have supported me over the years, both in Council and at the Assembly and, as I embark on a new chapter in my life, I leave it to the Unionist people of Foyle to decide who is the best person to represent the Constituency at the Assembly.
“I confirm that I will be continuing with the local Council as an Independent Councillor, providing the same consistent and effective service as I have always provided in the past.
“I have been humbled by the support received over past days from all shades of Unionism and I look forward to working constructively with everyone on the basis of my beliefs in the future.”