THE Ulster Unionist deputy mayor of Castlereagh has joined the DUP, it has emerged.
David Drysdale issued a stinging criticism of his former party, saying it no longer functions but has descended to "internal conflict and bickering".
In Mr Drysdale's resignation letter, seen by the News Letter, the Castlereagh councillor tells party chairman David Campbell that"divided parties achieve nothing".
He also said he "could not align to the out of touch policies of the Tory party who are targeting the most vulnerable in our society".
"I was appalled to hear the deputy leader of the party calling for the introduction of water charges yesterday, at a time when people are struggling toand uncertain about their future," he said in a statement last night.
"I am joining the DUP because I want to be a part of a team that is fighting to make Northern Ireland a better place and is standing up for our community."
DUP leader Peter Robinson welcomed Mr Drysdale to his party.
"There are many life-long members and supporters of the UUP who want to make a real contribution to moving Northern Ireland forward and they are seeing that with the DUP they can make a real difference," he said.
"It is a sign that the DUP is building a broad-based party when good, longstanding UUP elected representatives like David are joining us."
Mr Drysdale was elected as a UUP councillor in 2001 representing the Castlereagh East area.
His defection is the latest blow for the Ulster Unionist Party. Earlier this year, former Westminster candidates Trevor Ringland, Harry Hamilton and Paula Bradshaw all resigned from the party.