The future of Ukip’s first-ever elected representative in Northern Ireland is in doubt after he quit as the party’s Northern Ireland chairman.
Henry Reilly, who joined the party in 2008, having been an Ulster Unionist councillor since 1989, has been rumoured to have had an uneasy relationship with Ukip’s Northern Ireland leader, David McNarry, since the Strangford MLA joined the party in 2013.
The Newry, Mourne and Down councillor — who has a large personal vote in the Kilkeel area — left his role with the party last month, but details are only emerging now after the prominent councillor was noticed as missing from a major Ukip event on Monday night when leader Nigel Farage visited Belfast.
Mr Reilly told the Irish News that he was staying as a councillor but had “peddled back” from his role as the party’s regional chairman.
He said it was “no secret” that he and Mr McNarry had “a very, very strained relationship”.
Last night Mr McNarry declined to comment.
Mr Reilly told the News Letter: “I’m disappointed that there has been this hiccup, but I’m trying to get these issues resolved.”
Mr Reilly, who was Ukip’s European election candidate last year, had been expected to stand for the party in South Down next year in the Assembly election.
The departure of sitting MLA John McCallister from the UUP and uncertainty over whether DUP veteran Jim Wells will stand again meant that Mr Reilly would likely have been in contention for an Assembly seat.
The row is a blow to Ukip in Northern Ireland, a region where it has been substantially increasing its support from a low base.
The party polled 18,324 votes, ahead of the TUV, Green Party and the Conservatives.