Just over a month before its first electoral test, new pro-Union party NI21 is in turmoil after another member publicly quit and the party’s incomplete list of candidates was leaked.
Gerry Leddy, who had been involved with the party since its inception almost a year ago, said that he could not tell people to vote for its European candidate, Tina McKenzie, as he had “no confidence” in her.
In a message posted on his Facebook page, the former North Down and Strangford constituency association treasurer said that Mrs McKenzie, who is the party chairwoman, was “a lady I have no confidence, faith or trust in”.
He added: “I could not ask a voter to vote and support this candidate.”
Mr Leddy went on: “My position from [the] party stand point is untenable as soon as a valid NI21 candidate is appointed for Holywood and Clandeboye, where I am standing as an independent, to oppose me.”
NI21 leader Basil McCrea played down the departure, which comes in the wake of another member, Shane O’Hanlon, quitting the party with a blast at the leader, and one of the party’s prospective candidates being put out by the party after being told that he had described his political views as “to the right of Hitler”.
Mr McCrea said: “I wish Gerry all the best in his endeavours.
“All parties undertake a rigorous process of selecting candidates and there is always a chance that some people will not be chosen to stand – that is politics.”
Meanwhile, a list of the party’s proposed council election candidates has been leaked.
The list, which was given to the News Letter by two sources, contains 34 names.
The party said the list was “incomplete” and was not intended to be made public until next week.
It is almost exclusively made up of individuals who are new to frontline politics.
Ex-journalist on candidate list
The incomplete NI21 council candidate list leaked to the News Letter includes a former journalist.
Gary Grattan, a former news editor at the Belfast Telegraph, who in recent years has been working in public relations, is listed as a candidate in Newtownabbey.
One candidate, Jeremy Jones, is listed against seven different council areas all the way from Ballymena to Carrickfergus and Larne. Mr Jones is listed as the candidate for Knockagh, Carrick Castle, Larne Lough, Coast Road, Braid, Ballymena and Bannside. Many areas are listed as blank, while one candidate is listed without a surname. The list describes him as “Declan Someone”. The candidates are overwhelmingly in the east of Northern Ireland but there is a representative in Lurgan,one in Portadown and another in Limavady.