DUP chairman seeks to play down row in Foyle branch

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton.

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton.

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The DUP chairman has moved to play down suggestions of unhappiness in the party’s Foyle branch after the selection of Gary Middleton as Assembly election candidate.

A front page story in the Londonderry Sentinel this week reported that two-thirds of Foyle DUP members did not attend the meeting at which Mr Middleton was chosen and accused DUP headquarters of dictating to the branch.

A local DUP member told the newspaper that “we have a situation where we have a party leader and eight party officers in Belfast who are dictating everything”.

She disputed a party statement that Mr Middleton was chosen unanimously, saying “it was not unanimous”.

Mr Middleton was co-opted as an MLA by the DUP last year following Maurice Devenney’s shock decision to quit Stormont just six months after replacing Willie Hay.

But DUP chairman Lord Morrow said: “Gary Middleton was chosen by the members of the Foyle Democratic Unionist Association unanimously at a well attended selection meeting. He was the only candidate seeking selection.

“The process of selecting a candidate for the election was entirely open, transparent and conformed to party rules...internal party selections create rivalries within parties, but they are generally of little interest to the public. What the people of Foyle want is a hard-working MLA.”