Henry Reilly has been suspended for three months by Ukip’s legal team, the party’s Northern Ireland leader has said — but the reasons remain unclear.
Mr McNarry and Mr Reilly, who resigned last month as chairman of the party in Northern Ireland though did not publicise the fact at the time, have over recent days been engaged in an increasingly acrimonious public fallout.
Yesterday’s News Letter reported Mr Reilly’s allegation that Mr McNarry has brought the party “into disrepute” over how he has handled the situation.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr McNarry said that Ukip’s legal team had suspended the Kilkeel councillor for a three-month period.
However, the Strangford MLA said that he could not discuss the reasons for the suspension.
The former Ulster Unionist said that he had spoken to Ukip leader Nigel Farage yesterday and updated him on the situation. He said that no one in Ukip is allowed to divulge the reason for Mr Reilly’s suspension.
When contacted yesterday and asked if he planned to appeal the suspension, Mr Reilly declined to comment.
Later yesterday afternoon, Ukip released a brief statement which said: “After due consideration, Councillor Henry Reilly has been fully suspended from the party for a period of three months whilst investigations are carried out into his actions.”
In yesterday’s News Letter, Mr Reilly said that he believed leader David McNarry was attempting to force him out of the party. For five years — from he joined Ukip in 2008, until Mr McNarry joined and became its Northern Ireland leader in 2013 — Mr Reilly was the public face of Ukip in Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, Mr McNarry said that Mr Reilly had been suspended by the party, only for Mr Reilly to publicly dismiss that claim in a live radio interview on BBC Talkback.
After that, Mr McNarry said it was “clear and unambiguous — Henry cannot participate actively as a Ukip member”.
He added: “I am unable to answer Henry Reilly because of the rules and I am hamstrung in this situation.”
Over recent years Ukip has been growing from a very low base in Northern Ireland and the party was expected to be in contention for at least two Assembly seats in next May’s election. However, the spat could damage the party’s prospects, particularly as one of the target seats was South Down — where Mr Reilly would have been the candidate.