The Ulster Unionists have been hit by a second defection to the DUP within the space of 48 hours.
Belfast City Councillor Graham Craig, who represents the Botanic area of the city, follows in the footsteps of Councillor Aaron Callan, who moved to the DUP earlier this week.
DUP Leader Arlene Foster MLA labelled Mr Craig’s defection as a “hammer blow” to the UUP and claimed she is aware of Ulster Unionists “bewildered” at the direction of the party.
“I am delighted that Graham has decided to join with us. Graham has been involved in politics for almost 27 years and joined the Young Unionists on the same day as myself. He will add considerably to our Belfast City Council Democratic Unionist group and he is most welcome.
“Graham knows that the best way for unionism to unite is to do so around the Democratic Unionist Party as we now represent a wide spectrum of unionism. Today’s decision by Graham to leave the UUP, coming after Cllr Aaron Callan’s decision, is another hammer blow to that party and is further public evidence of the momentum we have gained. More and more I am encountering Ulster Unionists who are bewildered with where that party is going.
“I look forward to working alongside all of those who have joined the party in recent days as we move Northern Ireland forward.”
DUP Belfast City Council Group Leader Cllr Lee Reynolds said, “I am pleased to welcome Graham Craig to the DUP team in City Hall and South Belfast. He has shown a commitment to his council work that will complement the DUP group.
“This reinforces the DUP as the largest party in South Belfast after securing of two Assembly seats by Emma Little Pengelly and Christopher Stalford a few months ago.
“Since the 2014 election results, the disparate nature of unionist representation in the City Council has hampered unionism. Consolidation and growth of the DUP within City Hall will be positive for unionism and the council.”