Prominent unionist councillor Ruth Patterson has said she intends to remain as an independent representative after being expelled from the DUP.
On Sunday night she said that she has had “overwhelming” support, and despite the very public disagreement she has had with the party (see below) she wished Peter Robinson well in his retirement.
Alderman Patterson – who represents the Botanic district of south Belfast – had been a DUP member for about two decades.
An e-mail about the expulsion had been sent to her on Wednesday, but she did not open it until Friday.
She will not be challenging her expulsion.
She told the News Letter: “Where do I go next? Certainly I’ll be thinking long and hard about my future.
“I’m going to take a couple of weeks and just think very clearly about my next move.
“I’ve three-and-a-half years left to serve on council, and will be doing that as an independent unionist councillor.”
It had been reported in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday – before her expulsion was known – that a number of parties had approached her to join, and that she was “seriously thinking” about joining the TUV.
Asked if a role in Ukip or the TUV may beckon for her, she said simply “No.”
She was expelled for bringing the DUP into “disrepute” but on Sunday night she said: “I’m still waiting on clarification of what the ‘disrepute’ is.”
She said she is presuming that it is connected to her announcing that she may stand for the TUV, adding: “But again I need to get clarification on that because, as yet, I don’t know.”
Asked if she had any message for the DUP, she said: “I have been a member of the Democratic Unionist Party for almost 20 years...
“It stood for everything I stood for.
“I’ve been very proud to represent the DUP at council level, and to represent the wards in south Belfast that I have represented.
“I certainly wish Peter [Robinson] a very long, happy and above all else a very healthy retirement.”
She added: “I just want to say a very big thank you to everyone for the vast number of messages of support that I have received. It has been overwhelming.
“People have been very gracious in their comments, and certainly I have a lot of support out there.”
Tension had been building:
Ruth Patterson has often made the news in recent years for her outspoken comments.
Following the DUP’s decision to re-enter the Executive with Sinn Fein in late October, after a security report concluded that the PIRA retains some weaponry, she told the News Letter that rank-and-file party members were “extremely confused and angered” by the move, adding that the DUP had “hounded David Trimble for far less”.
Tension with party HQ had been building since earlier that month, when unelected DUP advisor Emma Pengelly had been chosen as the party’s replacement MLA in South Belfast (taking over from Jimmy Spratt).
Councillor Patterson had said at the time that “people that have served the party for a long time should be given respect”.