Northern Ireland

Reaction to resignations of Basil McCrea and John McCallister

Reaction to the news that two high-profile members of the Ulster Unionist Party have resigned.

Mike Nesbitt, leader UUP

"It is a matter of huge regret that following a unanimous vote of the Mid-Ulster Ulster Unionist constituency association, some individuals chose to attack the party on the airwaves.

"With regard to comments made by John McCallister, if he is resigning on principle, why did he not resign over the selection of an agreed candidate in Rodney Connor in Fermanagh and South Tyrone?

Image caption Mike Nesbitt said the resignations were a matter of 'huge regret'

"If he was unhappy with policies, why, when I gave him the opportunity 11 months ago to shape policy via a constitutional commission, did he not bother?

"I reject Basil's claim that in my leadership campaign I advocated 'no big idea'. What I said was there was no quick fix and there was no 'big idea' beyond a long, hard slog on the ground. Hard work was the big idea.

"Basil claimed that there are no policies. He appears to have completely missed my 2012 conference speech in which a wide range of polices were outlined.

"Basil also claimed there was no forum to discuss and debate policy and direction, yet was the only MLA not to attend the last away day which is the forum for such debate and discussion".

David McClarty, independent MLA

"Anybody who was a betting person would have put their money on John and Basil going at some stage. It happened extremely quickly, it wrong-footed an awful lot of people.

"The Ulster Unionist Party has, unfortunately, lost its way. The Ulster Unionist Party is sending out mixed messages; they want to be progressive and pluralist, yet they really have now turned this by-election into a sectarian head count and we're back to tribal politics.

"I have had a few words with both John and Basil in last couple of weeks. We have talked and I would imagine that we will have further conversations in the coming days and weeks.

Image caption David McClarty said the resignations happened very quickly

"Who knows what the outcome of the talks will be, but we want to progress Northern Ireland.

"My great fear (is) that we are about to see the end of the two great unionist parties."

Danny Kennedy, UUP minister

"We've seen Mid-Ulster have 26 years of non-representation from Sinn Fein. We've had the backlog of a bitter sectarian conflict, we've seen flag protests in Cookstown and we've also seen the murder of prison officer David Black.

"In that context there was a clear desire from the unionist people of Mid-Ulster to select a single candidate.

"I very much hope that Nigel Lutton will enjoy the full support of the various populations of Mid-Ulster and those who are tired of having no representation in Westminster.

"It astounds me that two individuals far away from that process take it upon themselves to decide what is best for Mid-Ulster.

"The UUP remain committed to being a moderately based unionist party with a reach into the wider communities.

"The history of forming smaller unionist parties hasn't been successful. I don't think they have any clear prospect of success."

Peter Robinson, leader DUP

He rejected any suggestion such a deal was sectarian.

"I find that offensive. Unionism is a political creed.

"It's a legitimate political viewpoint, it's a viewpoint held by the overwhelming majority of the people in Northern Ireland, it's not sectarian.

"Why would unionist not want to maximise the return that they would get for unionist votes in the country?"

Councillor Brian Bloomfield, Chairman Lagan Valley Ulster Unionist Association

"It was with great regret that I heard of the defection of our local MLA. This is greatly disappointing as many people in the association have supported Mr McCrea since the beginning of his career.

"However, despite this disappointment I would like to thank Mr McCrea for his service to the party and the constituency.

"It remains our foremost objective to ensure that the people of Lagan Valley are represented by Ulster Unionist voices at all levels of Government.

"Accordingly we will immediately begin preparations to retake our assembly seat at the next election."

Sandra Overend, Ulster Unionist MLA

"Last night's unanimous decision by the Mid-Ulster Association was unprecedented.

"Under other circumstances I might well have been seeking the party's nomination but I am fully behind Nigel Lutton in his campaign.

"Mid-Ulster is a constituency which suffered grievously at the hands of terrorists.

"Nigel Lutton will be a voice for victims and focused not just on the wrongs of the past, but on building the better future we all crave. "

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