BASIL McCrea has refused to sign a confidentiality agreement with the Ulster Unionist Party that would stop him from disclosing papers from his disciplinary case to the public.
The Lagan Valley MLA, whose disciplinary hearing is due to go ahead this afternoon after being postponed last week, said he was “very hopeful” the hearing would lead to the charges being dismissed.
However, Mr McCrea said that he had still not received a copy of the exact charges he faces.
He also told the News Letter that he had no problem with the media being admitted to the hearing and reporting what was said, but expected that the party would want to hold it behind closed doors.
Both Mr McCrea and his UUP ally, John McCallister, addressed their respective constituency party AGMs on Wednesday.
There had been rumours that both men may receive a grilling from local members unhappy at their attacks on unionist unity, but both events appear to have passed without significant internal criticism.
In December the UUP’s three Belfast councillors – David Browne, Jim Rodgers and Bob Stoker – threatened to quit the UUP if Mr McCrea was not sanctioned for criticising the UUP’s support for a DUP leaflet which attacked the Alliance Party for supporting the ending of year-round Union Flag flying from Belfast City Hall.
Yesterday the councillors declined to comment. However, a source close to the three men made it clear that they would be “waiting on the outcome of the disciplinary hearing and will consider their futures following that”.
In a move which appears designed to put pressure on Mr Nesbitt to take a firm line with Mr McCrea, the source suggested that the three councillors could either resign the UUP whip in Belfast City Council “or leave the Ulster Unionist Party” because of their “annoyance and embarrassment caused over Mr McCrea getting involved in issues which were purely to do with Belfast City Council and not consulting us”.
Mr McCrea said: “They asked me to sign a confidentiality agreement and I have declined because I think that as the charges are fairly public it is important that members of the party and the public get to understand what’s going on.
“I got to hear about the disciplinary proceedings via the Politics Show and got to hear about the detail of the case via the media.
“It is clearly a matter of public interest now and I am very hopeful that when I have a chance to explain the situation to the committee everybody will be satisfied and that will be the end of the matter.”