Northern Ireland

David McClarty says he will remain an independent MLA

East Londonderry MLA David McClarty has announced his intention to say as an independent rather than rejoining the Ulster Unionist Party.

If Mr McClarty had chosen to go back to the UUP, it would have had two seats in the incoming executive.

His decision means it will now have one with Alliance having one by right.

Mr McClarty said he had been contacted by hundreds of his voters urging him to remain independent and he wished to retain credibility with them.

'A loose amalgam'

"I know I was in a strong position and could have demanded almost anything, including maybe a ministry, but it was not about me or about personal gain," he added.

He also said he had concerns about the UUP party structures calling it "a loose amalgam of constituency associations" with "no central control".

BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Gareth Gordon said Mr McClarty, who left the Ulster Unionists in January after being de-selected by his local party, had also denied that his decision was about revenge.

"There's no doubt this will be a bitter blow for his former party which will now be reduced to just one ministerial position in the new executive," our correspondent added.

UUP Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea said he was not surprised by Mr McClarty's decision but it would be "very disappointing" for the party.

He added: "It does seem unfair that the Alliance Party, which has half the number of seats, will end up with twice as many seats on the executive.

"But we will have to take it on the chin."

'Desperate act'

Alliance leader David Ford said his party was always entitled to the extra ministry.

"The people's votes have decided that we are entitled to this post," he said.

"The UUP's cheap move to steal our position has failed and failure is all that this desperate act from them deserved.

"David McClarty has made the right decision and shown his integrity. It clearly reflects the wish of the people of East Londonderry, who elected him as an independent and totally rebuffed the UUP."

Mr McClarty was one of the UUP's longest serving MLAs. He was elected to Coleraine Council in 1989 and the assembly in 1998.

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