DUP man: I won’t quit for Cobain

Alderman David Hilditch
Alderman David Hilditch

A VETERAN DUP Assemblyman and councillor has said that he has no plan to resign his council seat and give it to former UUP chief whip Fred Cobain.

Two sources yesterday told the News Letter that in coming months East Antrim MLA David Hilditch, right, top, was likely to be removed from Carrickfergus Borough Council by his party and replaced by Mr Cobain, right, below.

Mr Cobain, whose move to the DUP was announced on Monday, was unable to be contacted last night.

However, Mr Hilditch – a Carrick councillor for two decades and former mayor of the east Antrim town – told the News Letter: “I know nothing about it.”

When asked if it had been discussed with him, Mr Hilditch laughed and said: “Not with me anyway, which is the worrying bit.”

He added: “I haven’t been involved in any discussions like that. I know there’s a couple standing down in other areas, but I don’t know if it would suit Freddie or not.”

A UUP spokesman declined to comment on Mr Cobain’s defection and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt could not be contacted.

However, a party source said: “We’re disappointed but not surprised. Fred’s been in conversations with the DUP for quite a while and obviously we received official confirmation yesterday.”

He added that “given Fred’s past deal with the DUP in North Belfast [which failed to see him re-elected] and his policies which are closer to Labour than the DUP” some in the UUP were surprised that it was the DUP which Mr Cobain had chosen to join.

Mr Cobain was one of five elected UUP party officers. The three remaining officers, including the key posts of chairman and treasurer, are appointed by the leader.

It is understood that the UUP AGM is to be held on March 23 and Mr Cobain’s party officer post will not be filled until that meeting.

Meanwhile, the UUP’s former director of communications, Alex Benjamin, said he was shocked at Mr Cobain’s departure from the UUP.

He said that Mr Cobain’s departure was a “seismic event” and that Mr Cobain was “a great barometer for Ulster Unionism”.

He recalled: “I remember Trimble would barely move unless he had taken Fred’s pulse and he had the ear of many other influential people, hence his almost constant presence at talks. North Belfast was tough for him but his move genuinely shook me.”

And, in an attack on the UUP leader, Mr Benjamin said: “My point is that Fred and others had their pulse on the party, had an understanding of it, knew how to articulate its positions and did so through good and bad times.

“Now we have in charge an ex-UTV presenter who seems to have no concept, much less respect for what it means to be an Ulster Unionist.”