FORMER Ulster Unionist MLA David McNarry is to join the UK Independence Party, it has emerged.
Mr McNarry, who was expelled from the Ulster Unionist Party earlier this year after a protracted row with the then leadership, will be UKIP’s first MLA.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage and deputy leader Paul Nuttall will unveil Mr McNarry as their most high profile Northern Ireland member at a press conference in Stormont on Friday morning.
However, news of the Eurosceptic party’s most significant breakthrough in Northern Ireland leaked out n Thursday ahead of Friday’s press conference.
UKIP stood candidates in several constituencies last year in both the Assembly and council elections.
Despite the party investing significant sums in that campaign and the visit of senior figures, including Mr Farage, party strategists were left bitterly disappointed as only their existing councillor, Kilkeel representative Henry Reilly, managed to get elected.
Mr McNarry, a veteran Ulster Unionist who was a special adviser to Lord Trimble while he was First Minister and a Strangford MLA, has sat in Stormont as an independent since his row with the UUP began last year.
Mr Farage said: “We are delighted to welcome David McNarry to the UK Independence Party. He is a man of great political experience and we warmly welcome him into a full national political party”.