David McNarry went too far in interview says Tom Elliott

The Ulster Unionists, who were reduced to sixteen seats in last year's assembly election, are now down one more because of an internal party row

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Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has said he demoted MLA David McNarry because he went too far in a newspaper interview.

Mr McNarry announced on Friday he was quitting the UUP assembly team after being removed as deputy chairman of the assembly's education committee.

Mr Elliott said Mr McNarry spoke to the Belfast Telegraph of a vision which one day saw a DUP first minister and a UUP junior minister.

He said he had had to discipline him.

Mr Elliott said he too felt disappointed about what had happened, but had made clear to Mr McNarry after the interview that he was irritated.

"David McNarry had indicated to me that he was carrying out an interview with the Belfast Telegraph the following day and I had said to use the lines that had been issued in the press statement," Mr Elliott said.

"Unfortunately he went above and beyond that.

"There was no issue with him talking to the DUP - I had him as a liaison with the DUP so there was no issue around that - it was because he went beyond his remit.

"Quite clearly once you see someone talk about the possibility on the future of the DUP holding the first minister position and the Ulster Unionist Party holding the junior minister, that's way beyond the remit."

Mr McNarry, an assembly member for Strangford, said he was shocked and insulted when his leader told him he would be removed as deputy chairman of the committee.

It came as the fallout continued over his revelation that he has been talking to the DUP about greater cooperation.

Under assembly rules, Mr McNarry must inform the Speaker of his decision to resign from the Ulster Unionist group.

He insisted his interview with the Belfast Telegraph was done with the leader's full knowledge.

He said he felt "hurt, betrayed and disappointed" by his demotion.

He remains a member of the Ulster Unionist party - whose assembly team will fall from 16 to 15.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the Politics Show on Sunday Mr McNarry would be welcomed if he wanted to join the DUP.

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