Former DUP MLA ‘may be open to chat’ about returning to party after election

A former DUP MLA has indicated he might open to “a chat” about potentially returning to the party if they needed numbers to be the largest at Stormont.

By Rebecca Black, PA
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 10:10 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 9:50 am

Alex Easton left the DUP last year shortly after Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was confirmed as leader.

He said he did not regret his decision to leave, adding that he had not felt valued within the ranks.

He claimed that DUP leader Sir Jeffrey had made a “half-hearted” attempt to convince him to return.

In July, the new DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was rocked by the resignation of MLA Alex Easton

He also contended that Sir Jeffrey told him the DUP would field two candidates against him in the upcoming Assembly election, and would field a high-profile candidate against him if he “dared” to stand in the next Westminster poll.

Mr Easton lost the last Westminster election in 2019 to North Down MP Stephen Farry (Alliance) by just under 3,000 votes.

However, in an interview with the BBC, Mr Easton indicated that depending on the circumstances he may consider rejoining.

The DUP emerged as the largest party following the 2017 Assembly elections with 28 MLAs, just ahead of Sinn Fein with 27 MLAs.

This allowed the party to nominate a first minister while Sinn Fein nominated a deputy first minister.

However since 2017 the DUP numbers have fallen following the removal of the party whip from South Down MLA Jim Wells and the resignation of Mr Easton.

Mr Easton said he might be up for “a chat” with the DUP about returning to the party if it would block Sinn Fein becoming the largest party and securing the post of first minister.

He is running to reclaim his Assembly seat as an independent in this spring’s Assembly election.

He said if he is elected and the DUP needed the numbers he would act in the “best interest of his constituents and of the union”.

In a statement, a DUP spokesman said he was “saddened by Alex’s response”, describing him as a “valued colleague” and urged unionists to work together “rather than attacking each other at this time”.

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