Peter Robinson to meet Ruth Patterson over MLA ‘snub’

Ruth Patterson will resign from Belfast City Council at the next election
Ruth Patterson will resign from Belfast City Council at the next election

DUP leader Peter Robinson is to meet party councillor Ruth Patterson after she went public to express her anger at being snubbed for an MLA’s seat in her constituency.

The party bypassed her last week when it chose an outsider, Peter Robinson’s special adviser Emma Pengelly, to take over from Jimmy Spratt as its South Belfast MLA.

Another high-profile local councillor, former deputy lord mayor Christopher Stalford, was also overlooked.

Ms Patterson went public on Tuesday to say that she felt so hurt by the developments that she would resign from politics at the next council election.

“I am not leaving [the party],” she said. “I feel I would be letting those people who voted for me down if I walked away now.”

She said the next election was three and a half years away and by that stage she will have served almost 18 years on the council.

“I think that is long enough. I think it is time for me to enjoy retirement. I don’t like what has happened in the last week but it has absolutely nothing to do with Emma. She is a very academic and capable person.

“But there is a protocol and people that have served the party for a long time should be given respect.”

In the last Assembly election, she said, she won 3,700 first preference votes.

“The SDLP congratulated me on winning the seat but in the end Jimmy Spratt beat me by only 116 votes. I was the highest polling candidate in Northern Ireland not to get elected.”

She said that Mrs Pengelly did not live or work in south Belfast.

As soon as she had heard of her appointment she asked Mr Robinson for a meeting.

Previous meetings with him had always been “very courteous,” she added.

A DUP spokesman said: “Ruth remains a DUP member but has indicated that she may not stand at the next council election. The party leader hopes to discuss any issues Ruth wishes to raise with him in the coming days.”