Veteran Ulster Unionist worker Maggie Hutton has launched her campaign to run as an independent in the upcoming Assembly elections.
The 42-year-old – who is still a personal assistant to UUP MLA Andy Allen – has also launched a new Facebook page promoting her candidacy.
Ms Hutton told the News Letter she launched her campaign on Saturday on the Newtownards Road as an independent unionist candidate as “I am disillusioned” with politics and “there is a great disconnection between Stormont and grassroots, working-class people”.
When asked why she was standing against her boss for a seat in the Assembly, Ms Hutton said: “Well if you put it like that I am standing against all the others throwing their hat in the ring. It just happened Andy was the guy who took Michael’s (Michael Copeland) seat.
“I can honestly say it would not have mattered who had taken Michael’s seat, but I feel I would have taken a stand at this stage.
“This is not a personal thing between me and Andy Allen. I believe the community I grew up in and live in have not seen any improvement on the ground for working-class people. I want to give the people I deal with every day a voice.”
She said “close friends and family members” were assisting with her election campaign.
She added that loyalist David McConnell and loyalist flag protestor Jamie Bryson were both “friends” but would not be involved in her campaign.
“I have all sorts of friends,” she added. “There are quite a mixture of people behind me.”
On her election Facebook page she writes: “It is an honour and privilege to have been asked to stand in an area that I love so dearly, East Belfast.
“Now the work begins, but I know that the community groups that are behind me are up for the challenge.”
In a statement RIR veteran Mr Allen said he was “disappointed” at Ms Hutton’s comments.
“The Ulster Unionist Party team, right through from volunteers and activists to councillors and MLAs have worked hard for east Belfast down through the years and will fight hard for the opportunity to continue to represent the people of east Belfast in the next Assembly mandate,” he said.
“I was born in Knocknagoney and raised in the Albertbridge Road area of east Belfast.
“So I don’t think I need any lessons in the needs of working-class unionists, indeed I’m working on a daily basis to help address the issues affecting east Belfast.”