Northern Ireland

Elliott decision on David McNarry 'should be respected' - Danny Kennedy

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

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy has said his party should respect the decision to discipline David McNarry.

UUP leader Tom Elliott called Mr McNarry on Friday to tell him that he was being removed as deputy chair of the education committee because of a newspaper interview last Monday.

It prompted Mr McNarry to resign from the UUP assembly group.

Former UUP deputy leader Mr Kennedy said Mr Elliott had the right to exercise party discipline.

He said he learned of Mr McNarry's decision to leave the UUP group "more in sorrow than in anger".

In the interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McNarry said 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.

Despite Mr McNarry's assertion that he briefed Mr Elliott both before and after the interview on Monday, he was disciplined by the leader on Friday.

Although Mr Eliott said he would not be removing the party whip, Mr McNarry responded by infoming the leader he was resigning with immediate effect from the assembly group.

Earlier on Friday, the BBC revealed that Mr Elliott had written to party members to reassure them about the nature of talks the Ulster Unionists were 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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