Henry Reilly, a veteran councillor from Kilkeel, has left Jim Allister’s party a year and six days after he joined it from Ukip, where he had been the Northern Ireland chairman of Nigel Farage’s party.
In a statement to the News Letter, the TUV said: “Councillor Reilly contacted us yesterday morning via email to say that he was leaving the party, explaining that this was because of a new job opportunity.
“Councillor Reilly also informed us he was contemplating leaving his council seat because after thinking about the issue for a long time he feels that after being in politics since he was 16 and a councillor since 1989 he has done his bit.
“He remained in contact with party officers up to and including last week and at no time did he express any unhappiness nor did he mention any job opportunities.
“He certainly did not mention any plan to leave the party.
“We wish Henry well for his future and thank him for his service to TUV over the past year.”
However, speaking to the News Letter this afternoon, Mr Reilly denied that he was considering leaving politics.
He said: “I’m not going to leave the council; I’m not going to leave politics. Three thousand people voted for me and in terms of constituency work, I’ve never been busier.”
Mr Reilly, a former Ulster Unionist who has a considerable personal vote in South Down, stressed that he remained on good terms with the TUV.
When asked what he would say to people who are confused at his decision to leave the party after such a short period, Mr Reilly said that the decision was “solely” because of a new agricultural consultancy job with a charity which “doesn’t want any political allegiances” but was happy for him to be an independent councillor.
“I tried my best to get a seat [in May’s Assembly election]. I would love to have been up at Stormont helping Jim Allister – he is an outstanding character who has held the Assembly to account. But it just didn’t work out.”
In a resignation letter to Mr Allister, Mr Reilly said: “I am sorry to have to resign from the TUV with immediate effect.
“I am not moving to any other party and my resignation is because of an employment opportunity.
“I am very grateful to the TUV for the fellowship and support I received while in the party and wish the TUV every success in the future.”
When he joined the TUV last year, Mr Reilly described the party as his “natural home”.
Mr Allister said at the time that Mr Reilly was “both a proven, staunch traditional unionist and a Eurosceptic. As such he fits exactly into the TUV profile. I welcome him as a considerable asset to the party”.