NI21 deputy leader McCallister finally quits troubled party

Basil McCrea and John McCallister pictured in February 2013
Basil McCrea and John McCallister pictured in February 2013

NI21’s deputy leader John McCallister has resigned his membership as the weeks of public turmoil in the party continue.

The South Down MLA, who jointly with fellow MLA Basil McCrea set up NI21 after leaving the UUP last February in protest at the party’s support for a unionist unity candidate in the Mid Ulster Westminster by-election.

It is understood that Mr McCallister will now sit as an independent MLA at Stormont, with neither he nor the Ulster Unionists keen for him to return to the UUP fold.

Mr McCallister has become increasingly marginalised within NI21 over recent months as a rift developed with his former personal friend, Mr McCrea.

That dispute emerged publicly when he spoke out to the News Letter on the eve of May’s elections to brand the party “dysfunctional” after it suddenly decided to change its Stormont designation from “unionist” to “other” less than 48 hours before polling stations opened for the party’s first electoral test.

Since then, it has emerged that allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr McCrea had been made. The NI21 leader has strenuously denied any wrong doing and threatened to sue for libel if the allegations are made public.