UUP MLA Basil McCrea has challenged his party to publish documents from an internal process that found him guilty of two counts of indiscipline and issued him with a formal warning.
Speaking after Belfast City Council stopped flying the Union Flag daily in December, Mr McCrea had said the move was in line with UUP policy of flying it on designated days. He also criticised UUP calls to review the flying of the flag more at Stormont.
On Friday night the party issued a statement saying it had formally warned Mr McCrea after upholding two complaints – the first about comments he made on the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster in which he was found “guilty of indiscipline and of speaking in a manner that was detrimental to the party interest”.
In the second case he was found guilty of “a public attack on party policy and consequently of a further act of indiscipline” for comments in a local newspaper and on BBC Radio Ulster about a possible Assembly Commission consultation on the number of days the Union Flag is flown at Stormont. Party leader Mike Nesbitt has told the News Letter that the party whip has still not been restored to Mr McCrea.
But Mr McCrea yesterday defended his position. “At all times I have spoken party policy and did not attack any other member of the party,” he said. “As a matter of openness and transparency the public have a right to be informed of the details of the charges and how they reached their decision. So I have invited the party to publish its detailed reasons for the decisions it made. And I am then hoping to publish my own documents as well. I am entitled to waive my right to privacy to defend my good name.”
He said the UUP had twice asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement, which he refused, saying the party itself had gone public about disciplining him. Asked if he will consider legal action, he answered that he had “a strong case”.
“Some party members have been commenting about me on Twitter over the weekend, which I consider to be highly prejudicial to my appeal,” he said.
Yesterday a source within the party claimed that significant numbers of members were angered that Mr McCrea appeared on the BBC Politics Show yesterday to discuss his case.
In December Belfast City Council Aldermen Jim Rodgers, Bob Stoker and David Browne said they would consider their positions if the party did not deal with Mr McCrea. “The three of us will meet this week to carefully study the disciplinary committee’s statement,” Mr Rodgers said yesterday.