Northern Ireland

Basil McCrea questions David McNarry's future in the UUP

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 Basil McCrea has questioned David McNarry's future in the party.

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 the Strangford MLA to resign from the UUP assembly group.

Mr McCrea said it was impossible to leave the assembly group but remain a member of the party.

"If you leave one, you have, in effect, left both," he added.

'More in sorrow than anger'

Earlier on Saturday, former UUP deputy leader Danny Kennedy defended Mr Elliott's 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 Elliott said he would not be removing the party whip, Mr McNarry responded by informing the leader he was resigning with immediate effect from the assembly group.

Mr Kennedy was asked whether the party leader had been briefed after the Belfast Telegraph interview and whether it was the party's reaction which had prompted him to discipline Mr McNarry.

'On reflection of the events'

Image caption Danny Kennedy said he learned of Mr McNarry's decision 'more in sorrow than in anger'

"The party leader, on reflection of the events of this week, has concluded that he should discipline a particular member," Mr Kennedy said.

"This is political leadership being exercised by the leadership of the party and to that extent he will have the full support of the wider party."

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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