McCrea plays down online row over NI21 party resignation

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Basil McCrea has played down the significance of an online debate sparked by a resignation from NI21.

The party leader was commenting after a member of the NI21’s south Belfast executive posted his reasons on Twitter and a personal blog.

NI21 leader Basil McCrea

NI21 leader Basil McCrea

Shane O’Hanlon said he had quit at a meeting on Wednesday night over how the party intended to deal with the victims’ issue by simply “drawing a line under the past” – and criticised McCrea’s “strict leadership and policy approach”.

However, when he made his decision known on social media websites, he received an email from an officer of the party on Thursday saying he had been “expelled”.

The email – sent by NI21 official Kirsty McClay and posted by Mr O’Hanlon on Twitter – said: “I am writing to formally revoke your NI21 membership, following your recent negative portrayal of NI21 on you social media accounts.”

Mr O’Hanlon later tweeted: “They have now acknowledged that I had left as of last night, my membership has been unrevoked and I will get written confirmation.”

In his blog, Mr O’Hanlon said: “Basil makes the policy and we should not disagree with it. I personally don’t want to be part of a body were I have no say in policy, especially when they have already released a stance I wholeheartedly disagree with.

“Secondly, the chair stated that this is Basil’s career – reaffirming my thought that Basil probably comes first and the membership second.

“A damning statement in my opinion if any for a political party to make. Perhaps I misinterpreted these statements but I can only give opinion on what I saw and heard. It’s up to the voters to make their own decision on all of this. At the end of the meeting I spoke to the chair that I was done.”

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Basil McCrea said: “The party will make tough party decisions and obviously some people will be challenged by that. That’s just part of change. Change is painful but change is necessary.”

Responding online to Mr O’Hanlon’s account of his experience, NI21 chairwoman Tina McKenzie posted: “Many, many inaccuracies and misquotes Shane. I do wish you well in the future.”