Veteran DUP MLA Jim Wells has said he has “no regrets” after he lost the party whip over his scathing public criticism of the leadership.
The South Down MLA last month lifted the lid on a wrangle with the party leadership that has plagued him for three years.
Speaking to the News Letter today, Mr Wells declined to comment on whether he would appeal against the disciplinary action, but added: “This matter is not over with”.
He had previously said he expected to face disciplinary action after claiming the party went back on a promise to re-instate him after he stood down as health minister in 2015, after he was falsely accused of linking child abuse to same-sex marriage.
Mr Wells told the News Letter that, given the fact there is currently no Assembly in place, he was unsure what impact the sanction would actually have.
He added: “The role of the whip is to ensure party discipline within the Assembly chamber and committees, to make sure you vote the right way and speak according to party policy.
“Im not quite sure what the implications are when there is no Assembly.”
He added that he has “no regrets whatsoever” about speaking out publicly over his row with the leadership, stating: “I stand by every word I said.”
While Mr Wells said his relationship with rank and file DUP members remains “excellent”, he maintained that he has had “no contact” with the party leadership.
When asked if the sanction would draw a line under the matter, Mr Wells said: “I am not going to let this go.”
The News Letter also asked the MLA if he intended to appeal the decision, to which he simply said: “I cannot comment on that.”
Mr Wells went on to explain that he had “no issue” with party policy, adding that the DUP was “the only show in town”.
He continued: “I am the longest serving DUP MLA in history, having overtaken Ian Paisley’s record of 24 years.
“I have been with the party for 43 years. I am disappointed it has come to this but I remain on excellent terms with vast majority of people in the party.
“I still believe the DUP is the only show in town as far as securing the future of Northern Ireland. I’m 110% behind the party’s stance on Brexit and I have no issue at all with party policy and the direction the party has taken. I thought Arlene Foster played a blinder in December when it came to the Brexit negotiations.
“I have no intention of leaving the party. My only issue is the way I have been treated over these last three years personally, nothing more nothing less.”