Northern Ireland

Lennon performs in 24 Hour Party People

If you thought a week was a long time in politics the last 24 hours must seem like an eternity for one North Down councillor.

Austen Lennon appeared before the cameras at Stormont on Thursday afternoon saying he was no longer an independent councillor.

He was now a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, he said.

By the time he went to bed on Thursday the UUP's latest recruit was more old boy than new boy.

Difficulties over taking the party whip meant that the councillor's membership of the UUP was probably the shortest in the party's history.

Briefest career

He may become the answer to a pub quiz question as the person with the briefest career in the Ulster Unionists.

Speaking to the BBC, Austen Lennon said he had met UUP leader Mike Nesbitt earlier in the week with a view to joining the party.

It is understood that Mike Nesbitt wanted to discuss his application with other members of the party and there were other procedures to follow.

Austen Lennon then agreed to a photo shoot at Stormont on Thursday to formally announce his party membership.

However when Mike Nesbitt discovered that the councillor would not take the party whip he ended discussions with him. The North Down man posed on the Stormont steps alone - looking as independent as ever.

A few hours later it became clear that his transfer to the ranks of North Down Ulster Unionists was off the cards.

Austen Lennon, who has been a councillor for two decades said a mistake was made in the early discussions with Mike Nesbitt by not discussing in detail the issue of the party whip.

It is understood that he filled in a party application form and then formally announced his membership on his Facebook account.

'Disappointed'

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the North Down councillor had 'jumped the gun by announcing he was a party member when he wasn't."

He said the idea that he could join the party and not take the whip was "never an option ".

Austen Lennon said he was "disappointed and frustrated" by the turn of events. He said there were senior members of the UUP in North Down who were unhappy with his proposed membership.

He said he bore no bitterness to Mike Nesbitt who has been party leader since the end of March.

He said: "I wish Mike Nesbitt luck". He added: "He has a job on his hands "

Mike Nesbitt has been UUP leader for the past two months - like Austen Lennon he probably wants to forget the last 24 hours.