TUV councillor ‘heartbroken’ by party’s decision to not field her as candidate

TUV Cllr Jolene Bunting
TUV Cllr Jolene Bunting

A TUV councillor has hit out at her party after she failed to be nominated as a candidate for the upcoming Assembly election.

Jolene Bunting, the first ever TUV councillor to be elected to Belfast City Council, said her party officers had “made it very clear” that she does not have the support of the party.

On her Facebook page earlier today, Cllr Bunting posted screenshots of controversial comments she had made on social media as a teenager.

These remarks date back several years, including a post in 2011 which read: “I’m so sick of the poor Catholic b******* they make me sick. I wish they would just go down to Ireland and then they can fly their flags and change the street signs down there.”

Cllr Bunting said she feels her party is using these comments “as an excuse” not to put her forward her as a candidate in north Belfast.

She added: “I can understand Republican trolls using these screenshots, of silly things I said as a teenager (and have since apologised for).

“However it is totally heartbreaking to have these posts cast up by members of my own party, as an excuse, along with others, not to provide the people of North Belfast with the opportunity to vote for a TUV candidate.

“Today party officers , made it very clear that I do not have the support of the party. I have some hard thinking to do over the next few days.”

However, a TUV spokesman denied Cllr Buntings assertion and told the News Letter the party was not fielding a candidate in north Belfast due to “low branch finances”.

He added: “The realities of an Assembly election are that as a party we must cut our cloth accordingly to give all of our candidates the best chance of success. Sometimes that means taking tough decisions.

“Members of the TUV officer team met with Councillor Jolene Bunting this morning. Officers expressed the view that in light of the party’s disappointing performance in the constituency in last year’s Assembly poll and the fact that branch finances are very low it was not viable to contest in North Belfast.

“TUV has supported Cllr Jolene Bunting as best we could as she has adapted to being a Councillor. We will continue with that support.”

The party said it will be announcing its candidates for the election in the near future.