TUV 'not unionist vote splitters' says Jim Allister

image captionTUV leader Jim Allister addressed delegates at his party's conference

Traditional Unionist Voice are "vote gatherers" rather than "vote splitters" for unionism, party leader Jim Allister has said.

He was addressing the TUV's first conference since the general election, when it failed to win any seats.

Mr Allister conceded the party "may not have had the year we would have liked" but insisted the TUV "is here to stay".

He said a vote for the TUV in May's assembly and council elections would be a vote for "real and hopeful change".

"Vote for those who have presided over the deadlock, failure and dysfunctionalism of the present Stormont and you'll get more of the same," he said.

Mr Allister told delegates in Cookstown that the Stormont power-sharing system of mandatory coalition was a "benign form of despotism".

"Totalitarian coalition, without even a facility for Opposition, sets Stormont apart as a blot on the world's democratic landscape," he said.

He said transferring tax-raising powers from London to Belfast would breach "national sovereignty" and be "utter economic folly".

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