Former DUP mayor of Derry and Strabane quits party

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Media caption,
Former DUP mayor quits party to pursue 'vision'

The former DUP mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council has left the party, citing his desire to "move forward with a new political pathway".

Alderman Graham Warke served as mayor in 2021/2022, and has just been replaced by Sinn Féin's Sandra Duffy.

He said his year as mayor "emphasised the need for a new future, one that is based on reconciliation and building bridges".

Mr Warke said he would continue to represent his constituents.

However, he will be taking "time out" to spend with his family and friends, he said.

"I have been talking to people at the grassroots who are supportive of my decision and who believe, like me, that a moderate, progressive and positive political pathway is best for me and for this city and district," Mr Warke said.

"If we are to succeed in bringing prosperity, jobs, investment here then we need our politicians to all come together to work hard with real determination and courage on all sides."

As an independent, Mr Warke pledged to work with politicians on "all sides" of the council chamber.

The former mayor told BBC News NI he did not feel he had "left the party on bad terms" and said he was grateful to the DUP for giving him the mayoral opportunity.

His vision for the city, Mr Warke added, would be more easily worked towards as an independent.

"Being part of a political party is hard when you really want to reach out to everybody in the city and district," he said.

Image source, DCSDC
Image caption,
Mr Warke was co-opted on to the council in 2015

Mr Warke was co-opted on to the council in 2015 following Gary Middleton's move to the assembly.

Speaking on BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said while he did not know Mr Warke personally the party was "always sorry to see someone leave".

"All I can say is that if anyone looks at the kind of issues we seek to deal with and the way we have tried to take Northern Ireland forward, his aims are our aims," Mr Wilson said.

He added: "I do not recognise this picture that we do not do cross-community work and we do not represent and seek to work for all parts of the community in Northern Ireland".

Last year, then DUP Derry City and Strabane District councillor Ryan McCready also left the party.

At the time he said the DUP was "no longer compatible" with his beliefs.

Mr McCready is now an Ulster Unionist Party councillor.