Former Ulster Unionist MLA Alastair Patterson has explained his sudden decision to join the DUP, telling a former colleague he had done so at a time of “weakness on my part”.
On Saturday, the News Letter revealed that Mr Patterson had dramatically switched sides just weeks after he stood as an Ulster Unionist candidate in last month’s Assembly election.
He had been co-opted into the Assembly as an MLA for Fermanagh-South Tyrone in January and had served as an MLA up until losing his seat in the election.
In a statement, Mr Patterson said he was “delighted” to be joining the DUP and that it was “a step I needed to make”.
He said that “recent decisions by the Ulster Unionist Party, both locally and nationally, have disappointed me and did leave me feeling let down”, but the only one of those reasons which he gave was the UUP decision to walk out of the negotiations on a Programme for Government and instead opt for opposition.
However, in an email to an Ulster Unionist member over the weekend, Mr Patterson gave a different reason for his decision to switch parties.
In a comment which has been forwarded to the News Letter, he said: “The reality is the majority of my friends and family are DUP supporters and I have probably at a time of weakness on my part give [sic] into the advice they have been giving me since the Election.”
Responding to the defection, the UUP said in a statement: “Alastair Patterson took the opportunity through the Ulster Unionist Party to be co-opted to the Northern Ireland Assembly and then contested the election last month. He received full and forthright support from the party and the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Constituency Association.
“It is with great sadness that he has now decided to desert Ulster Unionism following his unsuccessful election. He has had several discussions with party members since the election and didn’t raise any issues of concern.
“Following receipt of his resignation a meeting with senior party officers was offered but it wasn’t accepted. It is unfortunate that the loyalty of the party and association shown to Alastair hasn’t been reciprocated.”
In welcoming Mr Patterson to the DUP on Friday, leader Arlene Foster praised him as “someone of the utmost integrity” and said that the DUP’s membership was “substantially growing in the aftermath of the election”.
She added: “We look forward to working with Alastair and he will play an important role within the Democratic Unionist Party.”
Text said he was ‘honoured’ to be in the UUP
The News Letter has seen a text message which Alastair Patterson sent to its leader Mike Nesbitt after the party’s spring conference, just three months ago, in which the then MLA said he was “honoured” to be part of “team UUP”.
In the message, Mr Patterson said: “Mike, I just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic leader’s speech today, the buzz, the positivity and the feel good factor in the room today was simply amazing. “It certainly is a time for change and no doubt in my mind we can and will ‘Make it Work’.
“Honoured and privileged to be a part of Team UUP. AP4FST”.