Election Diary: UUP and DUP both claim Coulter's backing

A former UUP MLA has found himself at the centre of a tug of war between the DUP and UUP.

Saturday, 30th April 2016, 7:40 am
The Rev Coulter with DUP candidates

On Thursday the Rev Robert Coulter was pictured with North Antrim DUP candidates Mervyn Storey and Phillip Logan , who put the picture online with the words “absolutely humbled to have...Robert Coulter endorse Mervyn Storey and myself”.

But that night, UUP candidate Robin Swann posted an image with his predecessor saying he was “pleased to have the support of Rev Robert Coulter”.

Speaking to the BBC, the Rev Coulter would not say who will get his first preference vote, but said he was “absolutely convinced that the unionist parties should vote together all the way down the ticket”.

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The Rev Coulter with UUP candidates

Robinson’s small role in campaign

Despite the fact that he was party leader until four months ago, Peter Robinson has been almost entirely absent from the DUP’s election campaign .

But the political veteran has played at least a small role in the election.

The Electoral Office’s Statements of Persons Nominated shows that Mr Robinson signed the nominations for two of the DUP candidates in East Belfast – Sammy Douglas and Robin Newton.

The Rev Coulter with UUP candidates

He did not sign the nomination papers for the third candidate (and the one replacing him), Joanne Bunting.

The Electoral Office documents also show that Orange Order Grand Chaplain the Rev Mervyn Gibson signed Mr Douglas’s nomination papers.

Vote management out the window in Upper Bann

There is evidence of tension among Ulster Unionist candidates in Upper Bann after an outgoing MLA urged everyone to give their first preference vote to one candidate.

The party has divided up the constituency between the three candidates – Jo-Anne Dobson, Doug Beattie and Kyle Savage.

But in a statement sent to the News Letter last night, retiring MLA Sam Gardiner said only mentioned Mr Savage – whose father George was an MLA for the area urged “everyone” to give their first preference vote to Mr Savage.

He said: “Kyle Savage is a fine man who will work tirelessly for the people of Upper Bann, both in it’s three main towns but also across the rural areas. I encourage everyone to vote Savage 1 on 5 May.”