A young Ulster Unionist councillor has resigned from the party amid rumours that he is to join the DUP.
Aaron Callan, who was elected as a UUP councillor in Limavady two years ago after polling 452 first preference votes, stood for the UUP as recently as May when he was a candidate in the Assembly election in East Londonderry.
The UUP released a statement at lunch time today, confirming that Mr Callan had resigned.
In a terse riposte, the UUP said: “We have built our success in recent years on teamwork. On that basis Councillor Callan is unlikely to be missed.”
Mr Callan could not be contacted.
A spokesman for the DUP – which is to hold its annual conference this weekend – told the News Letter that at present Mr Callan is not a member of the party.
However, BBC Radio Foyle journalist Dean McLaughlin said that Mr Callan had confirmed to the BBC that he would join the DUP.
Earlier this year, Mr Callan was one of many UUP members to publicly come out in favour of Brexit, despite leader Mike Nesbitt arguing for a Remain vote in the EU Referendum. At the time, he penned a joint letter with fellow UUP councillor Richard Holmes. The letter to the News Letter lamented that “the argument around the democratic deficit at the heart of Europe has unfortunately been lost amidst the economic arguments”.
Ahead of May’s Assembly election, in which he was a candidate in East Londonderry, Mr Callan responded to a survey by feminists seeking to ascertain candidates’ views on abortion in various circumstances.
In relation to abortion in cases of sexual crime, he told the group: “As a man, I can’t put myself in this situation. It would be a very difficult circumstance to be put in but ultimately women should have the right to decide what to do.”
Addressing the UUP conference three years ago, Mr Callan said he was “proud to say I am an Ulster Unionist”.
And, in an article for the News letter in 2010, Mr Callan said: “There are tough and challenging decisions in the time ahead. Only the UUP has the courage to face these decisions head on.”
In the same article, he criticised unionist unity as “short sighted and in the end self serving boiling politics down to a head count instead of credible policies and agenda which people can attach themselves to”.
At the time, he supported Basil McCrea as a “strong leader” for the UUP and added: “In my opinion, the Ulster Unionists are the only party that can offer a brighter future for unionism and Northern Ireland, they can offer a future based on equality, prosperity and moving together based on a shared future for all.”
In 2010, Mr Callan also wrote: “The DUP flip flopping on another issue is not a surprise”.
On his LinkedIn profile, Mr Callan describes himself as “an adaptable and ambitious graduate”.