A former DUP councillor and his wife, who have been members of the party for more than four decades, have resigned and attacked the party hierarchy, accusing it of being focused on making money.
John Henry, who served as a Londonderry councillor in the 1970s and 1980s, spoke out as fissures in DUP’s Foyle association continue to emerge into public view.
Mr Henry and his wife, Isobel, told the Londonderry Sentinel that the party’s move against former MLA Maurice Devenney – who quit last week after being suspended over allegations which he said were “spurious” – had dismayed them.
The couple said that they were “very hurt” and “disappointed” by the direction the party has taken since the departure of Ian Paisley.
Mr Henry said: “When I first stood for the council elections, I stood because I felt I could help the people in the rural community, not because of money – there was none.
“In those days I was out of pocket financially doing my job.”
Mr Henry, who the Londonderry Sentinel described as “a man of deep spiritual conviction”, quoted a Biblical text from Paul’s epistle to Timothy which states that “the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith”.
The party veteran said that there were people in the DUP who “are not in the party to try and help people any more, they are in for the love of the money”.
Mr Henry praised Dr Paisley’s leadership, saying that he was “a man we could depend upon” and someone who he trusted.
But, although Mr Henry said that he would not name individuals, he said that he did not trust the current party hierarchy, saying that “the party today, as far as I can see, it’s all money and they are just out to get as much of it as they can”.
Mrs Henry said that Mr Devenney had resigned “under pressure – and that pressure came from the top”.
And her husband supported what other former DUP members have told the News Letter over the last week – that if Mr Devenney’s name had gone before the local association he would have won the nomination ahead of the co-opted sitting MLA Gary Middleton “had we been allowed to have a say”.
That issue – along with concerns about fraud in the Foyle DUP office which this week saw the former office manager, Willie Hay’s brother-in-law Bill Irwin, plead guilty to 23 counts of stealing taxpayers’ money – has led to a significant number of resignations from the party over recent weeks.
Mr Henry said that he had been to several meetings with some of those putting pressure on Mr Devenney to withdraw his name from the selection process, in a bid to resolve the issue.
He said that at one meeting with senior party figures he had been horrified at how they had “scandalised” Mr Devenney with false allegations.
And Mr Henry dismissed as “just not true” allegations that Mr Devenney had suggested people should vote for the SDLP in last year’s election. He said it was “an excuse to try to get something on him”.
On Saturday the News Letter revealed that among those to have left the party in recent weeks are two of Lord Hay’s sisters who have been party members for 40 years.
Meanwhile, Foyle DUP members have issued a statement calling for party unity in the wake of the dispute.
In a statement issued by Gregory Campbell, Lord Hay, Gary Middleton, Alderman Drew Thompson, Ald Hilary McClintock, Ald David Ramsey, Ald Graham Warke and office manager Niree McMorris, they said: “Over the past few weeks matters which were being dealt with internally within the party in relation to one councillor became public, this was unfortunate and not of our making.
“Whilst there were a number of issues that needed to be resolved, inaccurate references and incorrect figures had been used in statements which made any resolution impossible.
“These negative strategies only serve to damage previously good relationships, as for the Democratic Unionist Party in Londonderry, we are determined to continue doing what those who vote for us want us to do, that is keep building for the future, ensure that republicans are not allowed to rewrite the past and to keep working for the community.
“The main focus in the next few months will be the Assembly election, while Sinn Fein are bringing back Martin McGuinness to the Foyle constituency to try and gain an extra seat every unionist will know that this must not happen at the expense of the one unionist seat in the area.
“The bigger political picture must not be obscured by petty difficulties. Just as Northern Ireland needs Arlene Foster to be the First Minister after May so the local party has united behind Gary Middleton MLA as the person to retain the unionist seat.”