Councillor: I felt I had no option but to walk away from DUP over its direction
Londonderry alderman Ryan McCready said he felt he had no option but to walk away from the DUP due to concerns over the direction the party is taking.
Mr McCready confirmed that he was quitting the party over the treatment meted out to his former leader and a range of other issues.
The Derry and Strabane councillor said there was a sense of relief now that the decision has been made.
“There was a series of factors,” he said. “In terms of timing, the handling of Arlene Foster and the matter in which that leadership transition happened concerned me deeply.
“For me it was disgraceful. I wouldn’t accept it and it’s not how I treat people so it’s very difficult for me to remain in a party when they conduct themselves in that way at that high a level.”
Mr McCready also said that he would have preferred Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to have won the DUP leadership race.
“If I did have a vote, which I didn’t, which was another issue, none of the councillors had any say which just shows the disconnect between the higher levels and the lower levels within the party.”
Mr McCready said he feels relieved he had “the moral courage and fibre to be unpopular and to be truthful to yourself”.
“When you find something unacceptable then don’t accept it and that is exactly what I have done today. It will be uncomfortable for some, but I would rather be truthful with people than try and please them.”
He added: “People in the grassroots are generally not happy with politics and specifically with me in the Democratic Unionist Party so I need to give them a breath of fresh air, listen to the grassroots and take it from there.”
He said he believed Mr Donaldson could take taken the DUP in a different direction.
“I would have been more in favour of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson who, I believe, would have kept on that trajectory of being more moderate, progressive initiated by Arlene Foster as opposed to what I perceive — Edwin Poots would be more regressive in his politics.” In his two years to date as an elected representative on Derry and Strabane, Ald. McCready has been noted as a more ‘progressive’ voice for unionism, and has spoken up on issues including LGBT rights.
“I have been consistent on voting on any contentious issues. I have steered away from the party line on numerous occasions and I seem to have the freedom to do that — or there is just no balances or checks in place from the higher headquarters.” Ald. McCready said there were other issues that concerned him as well both within the party and externally.
“Geographically where we are in Londonderry, it seems to always play second fiddle to Belfast not just in the DUP but in politics in general and that also needs to change.”
When asked about the Councillors in Derry and Strabane working together on a cross-party basis had opened his own eyes to the potential for power sharing, he said there was some great work going on, but that there were still major issues. “Yes there are incredibly successful partnerships that have been running through Council but I still have issues within Council - the matter in which members would bring in very divisive agendas in there and drive it forward at the expense of the public purse and ratepayers, that is something I really disagree with at times. I’ve made that vocally clear in there as well.”
One bone of contention is the recently proposed and adopted Irish Unity Working Group. “I have no problem with any political party having an agenda, a vision or objective for them to attain but when you bring it in and shade that through public money and ratpayers money through the Council, where unionists are a significant minority, it just seems absurd to me.
“Those who I represented and represent moving forward find that unacceptable and deeply offensive to be carried out in this manner - they just want basic services, they want access to clean well managed cemeteries - there is differences in cemeteries because of lack of staff and resources and yet somehow members can find the time for Council officers, employees and funding to initiate this type of working group.”
The 35-year-old former UK Soldier of the Year said he has not yet decided on where he goes from here, but would consider staying in Council if that was aligned with the wishes of those who voted for him.
“It’s undetermined as yet. Essentially I will remain an Independent Councillor and will remain in the Council indefinitely until I find out from the electorate their position and if they want me to move forward with them in what platform or capacity. They need to have their say because it was those people who put me here and I am answerable to them.”