UUP denies 'irrevocable split' claims

THE UUP has denied it is "irrevocably split" over its decision to link up with the Conservative Party.

The DUP had accused the Ulster Unionists of being in disarray, claiming a policy document on the transfer of justice and policing had disappeared from the party's website.

The UUP has laughed off the charges, claiming the DUP has got its facts wrong on justice and policing and that the document in question was still on its website.

DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen fired her party's latest salvo at the Ulster Unionists over their links with the Tories.

She said: "What is clear is that since the publication of their rules concerning the selection of joint candidates with the Tories for Westminster elections, a significant body of opinion has emerged within the UUP determined to flex their muscle and maintain a distance between the UUP and the Tories.

"This latest split is clear and evident."

The Strangford MLA also said the party was in disarray over policing and justice.

She said: "Just over two weeks ago David McNarry launched a policy document the content of which was reported widely as detailing a new policy relating to a five-year delay in the devolution of policing and justice powers and a commitment from any future Tory administration to a special contingency fund for Northern Ireland."

She said it now appeared though the UUP was rowing back from the policy document.

"Reg Empey has stated that the five-year delay in devolution of policing and justice powers is not actually the policy of his party.

"The statement issued in David McNarry's name at the time of the launch appears to have been removed from the UUP website and the document has been virtually buried."

The UUP said there was no confusion over its policy and there was no five-year 'delay' period on policing and justice.

A spokesman accused the DUP of "not being able to read".

He said: "The DUP has far too much time on its hands. This is what the UUP actually said: 'Any financial package for the transfer of policing and justice powers needs to be rigorously tested for its financial sustainability, risk management and contingency planning against potential shortfalls and it should be rolled out over a five-year period initially being funded entirely by Westminster. Only then, on the basis of the outcomes of this five-year period, should it be fully transferred.'"

He also denied the policy paper launched by Mr McNarry had been "buried".

"The document hasn't been removed - it's in the economy section of our website."