DAVID McNarry has said that “no-one in the unionist family” should “speak out of turn” to damage the campaign of unionist unity candidate Nigel Lutton in Mid Ulster.
The UKIP MLA, who has been a long-standing proponent of unionist unity, said that Thursday’s by-election was crucial to assessing whether unionist politicians could work together in future electoral contests.
Mr Lutton, a Portadown undertaker and the son of an RUC reservist murdered by the IRA, has adopted a low media profile which has led to criticism from some unionist voters in Mid Ulster who have called on him to set out his position on issues such as the flag protests and the Mid Ulster Hospital.
However, Mr McNarry – who was expelled from the UUP last year – told the News Letter: “I was first out of the blocks with a platform piece in the News Letter calling for a united candidate. Immediately when Nigel was named, UKIP endorsed him and our message to the electorate is to stick with him.
“This is an election about not only unionist aspirations but also how unionists will be seen to have been able to cooperate with each other and that is important. I clearly wish him well.”
Mr McNarry added: “I understand the difficulties; he’s aware of the banana skins. He’s engaged in a fair fight and avoiding those banana skins.
“Let’s hope no-one else in the unionist family speaks out of turn or impairs the strong message that Nigel is delivering on the doorstep.”
Meanwhile, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell yesterday condemned the removal of posters belonging to his candidate, Patsy McGlone, from the Castledawson Roundabout.
Dr McDonnell said: “This is the latest attempt to devalue this campaign and prevent the people of Mid Ulster from making an informed choice about who can best represent their interests and hopes for the future.
“Patsy McGlone has fought a very fair and dignified campaign. He has neither hid from TV cameras, newspaper interviews or from meeting with the electorate of Mid Ulster to listen to their concerns.”
Alliance candidate Eric Bullick said: “Alliance are standing in this election to offer an alternative to the tribal politics of the other parties.
“This sectarian headcount is emphasised by the decision to stand a unionist unity candidate in this election. We have already seen the contempt that the unionist and Sinn Fein candidates have treated the public with by their refusal to take part in the only television debate on this election.”