McCrea puts in place new NI21 executive

Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea
Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea

Basil McCrea has appointed four members to NI21’s executive, after the party’s ruling body fell apart on polling day last week.

The NI21 leader, whose party faces questions over its very existence after taking just 1.6 per cent of the vote and being rent asunder by internal feuds, announced in an email to party members that he was taking steps to reorganise the party.

Mr McCrea has also faced calls from his deputy leader, John McCallister, and some candidates, to step aside following allegations from more than one former party worker that he engaged in sexual misconduct.

Mr McCrea has strenuously rejected those allegations, but declined to discuss them in detail for legal reasons. On Monday, the Lagan Valley MLA said that he was taking unspecified legal action against unspecified individuals.

In an email to party members, Mr McCrea acknowledged that “the last few weeks have been very challenging for the party” but said it was time to “reflect and reorganise”.

Mr McCrea said that securing 10,553 votes in the European election was “a major achievement”, despite candidate Tina McKenzie having quit politics even before the votes were counted.

Referring to all but one of the party’s candidates who failed to get elected, Mr McCrea said: “I offer my sincere commiserations and a personal apology that the campaign did not end well.”

Mr McCrea said he was appointing Jayne Howson as chair, Jonie Graham as vice-chair, Adam Murray as secretary and Cllr Johnny McCarthy as nominating officer. There is still no treasurer.

Mr McCrea said he understood that the chair intended to “co-opt additional non-voting members” and then convene “a party meeting to discuss the way forward”.

Last night Mr McCallister said that he had spoken to the new chair to tell her that he had “no input or discussion over either her appointment or any of these appointments”.

“In fact, three out of the four I barely know. One I’ve never met. I had a conversation with her to talk about some of the serious issues that, whatever this report [into the allegations] brings, will have to be taken seriously.

“How we deal or progress with it will reflect on all of us, and particularly on her as chair.

“For my own part, I have a concern about how effective an executive can be in dealing with a report when the person who appointed them is the same person who the report will be about.

“I don’t think it’s an especially good position to be in and it would be absolutely bizarre to hold some sort of party EGM before the report came back.”

It is understood the independent firm investigating the allegations is likely to ask Mr McCrea for a meeting later this week or early next week.