UNIONIST veteran David McNarry has spoken of his decision to switch status to UKIP.
Although the fringe party enjoys representation at a local and European level across the UK, and is now seeing a bounce in the polls, it had not had any members in any UK legislative assemblies.
Introducing Mr McNarry at a Stormont press conference just after 11am, party leader Nigel Farage said: “We’ve always said we’re a truly genuinely national political party and David McNarry coming across to UK today proves that.
“I know we’re very much identified with the European question - quite rightly, because we think the whole question of who governs our country is vital.
“But please don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re a one-trick pony. We’re not.”
Mr McNarry, a former Ulster Unionist until he was kicked out of the party earlier this year in a dispute with its leadership, had been sitting as an independent member of Stormont.
But on Friday morning he told reporters:: “I have advised the speaker of the house that as from today I wish to be known as David McNarry, UKIP member, MLA for Strangford.
“The speaker has informed me that is entirely in order, and here I am under that new title.”
He said he wanted to bring “national politics” to Northern Ireland, and defended his decision to create an additional unionist presence in the assembly, adding to the UUP, DUP and TUV.
“I am a supporter of unionist unity,” he said.
“UKIP are a unionist party. I have spoken to Nigel and Paul and we’ll play a full role in that. The key to UKIP’s involvement is that is UKIP are the only unionist party with a national agenda.
Speaking about why he chose UKIP, he said: “I saw a ray of light. We (Nigel Farage and I) bumped into each other and saw we could do business.”
He said UKIP offer “the very best from a union perspective than any other party in Northern Ireland and I saw that as someone quite experienced in NI politics.”
Henry Reilly, UKIP councillor for Newry and Mourne, said: “We’re a serious political party in Northern Ireland.
“We think it’s testimony to the amount of work we have done on the ground that we have a very serious and respected politician prepared to come over to UKIP.”