Northern Ireland

David McNarry leaves Ulster Unionist assembly group

David McNarry of the UUP
Image caption David McNarry resigned after his party leader told him he would no longer be the deputy chair of the education committee

The Ulster Unionist MLA David McNarry has resigned from the Ulster Unionist assembly group.

In a statement he said this followed a decision by the UUP leader Tom Elliott to remove him as deputy chair of the education committee.

Mr McNarry said he spoke to the party leader on Friday evening by telephone.

And Mr Elliott told him he was being disciplined as a result of an article that appeared in the Belfast Telegraph last Monday.

Although Mr Elliott said he would not be removing the party whip, Mr McNarry in response informed the leader he was resigning with immediate effect from the assembly group.

The article was an interview Mr McNarry gave, in which he revealed that he had been meeting the DUP to discuss closer co-operation and maximising the unionist vote.

These talks had previously been secret and the article caused a backlash throughout the assembly group and the party.

Earlier on Friday, the BBC revealed that the Ulster Unionist leader had written to party members to reassure them about the nature of talks the UUP was having with the DUP.

In the letter, seen by the BBC, Mr Elliott said the brief was nothing more than to "explore areas of cooperation for the benefit of unionism in general".

An Ulster Unionist spokesperson said: "We can confirm that David McNarry was removed by the party leader as vice chair of the education committee.

"We are aware of the media reports that David has resigned from the Ulster Unionist assembly group, but at this stage neither the leader nor the party have received formal notification from David of his resignation."

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