DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said the party was dealing with a number of “private issues” in the run-up to its former Foyle MLA Maurice Devenney resigning.
Mr Campbell was speaking on Wednesday morning after Mr Devenney quit the party the night before.
The former Foyle MLA – who replaced Willie Hay in the Assembly in 2014 before resigning unexpectedly last March – said that he was resigning with a heavy heart after what he believed to be “a campaign of vilification against me”.
Mr Devenney’s decision to resign from the DUP came just a week after he was suspended from the party on the grounds that he had allegedly brought the party into disrepute during last year’s Westminster election.
Mr Campbell told Radio Foyle: “When Maurice volunteered to step aside [as an MLA], in his statement he said he wished to concentrate on local issues and he was fully supportive of the current Foyle MLA at that time and expressed public support for him. So, you know, these matters are better dealt with internally.”
When asked if he believed the DUP had taken the right decision to suspend Mr Devenney, he said: “Oh yes. There were a number of issues which had to be dealt with but they’re private issues that we were dealing with internally...”
A DUP spokesman said on Wednesday Mr Devenney “left the Assembly by his choice” and added there were “winners and losers” in selection contests.
He has been accused of asking DUP supporters to give their votes to Mark Durkan of the SDLP – a claim he has firmly rejected.
He also said he has not been allowed to know who lodged the complaint against him.
The former MLA - now an independent councillor - said DUP constituency branches now have little or no say in the selection of election candidates and that it had been made clear to him that even if he was selected by his, “I would not be acceptable to the party hierarchy”.