NI21 a toxic experience, says McCallister

John McCallister pictured during a meeting in Belfast. 'Picture: Arthur Allison.
John McCallister pictured during a meeting in Belfast. 'Picture: Arthur Allison.

Beleaguered NI21 deputy leader John McCallister has decribed his time with the party as the “most toxic experience of my life”.

However, the South Down MLA said he had not been turned off politics and would be seeking re-election to the Assembly.

Last month, just ahead of the local and European elections, NI21 imploded after a former female party worker made allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour by party leader Basil McCrea.

Soon afterwards, Mr McCrea issued a statement saying the deputy leader had attempted to, in McCrea’s words, “derail an investigation into inappropriate sexual activity by me”.

According to the former party worker, the alleged sexual misconduct took place over a period of several months last year. When asked to comment on the allegations, Mr McCrea vehemently rejected them.

At the time, Mr McCallister said he would remain with the party to help “sort out the mess”.

Speaking to the News Letter last night, he said: “If this ran its course and Basil is exonerated then I will be as happy as anyone, because you go through an independent process, and the public need the confidence that something has been seen to be done.”

He added: “The person that the allegations are against has got reading all of those statements and we are stuck in limbo as to what to do and how the party should take that forward.

“Does NI21 even have the capacity to address them? That is the bit that I don’t think is getting through to people.

“I know it might be confusing for people on the outside, but for me it’s fairly simple - the executive of NI21 have no mechanism for dealing with this and have no capacity to deal with this.

“It made sense, and still does make sense to use a professional independent body to do that.”

Commenting on what is likely to happen over the next week to 10 days, Mr McCallister said: “Hopefully I’ll be gone by the time it gets to ten days.” Asked if he was anticipating jumping or being pushed, he added: “Either way, I’m not that bothered.”

Mr McCallister said he still hoped for a meeting with both Carecall and party chairwoman Jane Howson to clear up why the investigation is not continuing if that is the case.

He added: “I expect some of the [NI21] staff to get their statements back off Carecall, I expect some of them to go into the party and lodge a formal complaint, and I expect some of them to go to Douglas Bain (the Assembly Commissioner for Standards).”

Basil McCrea was unable to be contacted last night.