McCallister vows to contest South
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
FORMER Ulster Unionist MLA John McCallister will remain in politics and intends to contest the next Assembly elections in South Down following his shock resignation from the party.
The former Deputy Leader quit on Thursday night following after the UUP and DUP endorsed a unionist unity candidate for next month's by-election in Mid Ulster.
Speaking to the Democrat, Mr McCallister said he will remain as an MLA as an independent unionist and that he will contest the next Assembly election.
“No one can accuse me of self interest. South Down will be very difficult to hold and I'll have to fight for every vote I get and I'm prepared to do that," he said.
“I am keen to get out and listen to, engage with and speak to people and take their views on board and represent South Down as usual."
Commenting on his resignation, Mr McCallister said that agreement between the two main unionist parties to endorse a unionist unity candidate "was the straw that broke the camel's back".
He said: "Everything the UUP has been doing the last number of months has been pointing towards closer unionist co-operation and unity and this was the straw that broke the camel's back; it was a bridge too far for me."
There has been talk that Mr McCallister and Basil McCrea, who also quit the party on Friday, would form a new party.
He said: "We need to take a bit of time and look as to what the mood is out there. My sense is that there is a mood for something different and that offers something away from this sectarian deadlock we have managed to get ourselves back into, the green versus the orange.
“That's the type of politics I have been very strong in advocating we need to get away from and why I feel so opposed to unionist unity, because you just end up with a sectarian headcount."
Mr McCallister said he will continue to press for opposition in government, which he believes will provide the electorate with an alternative choice.
He added: "I'm still working on a Private Members' Bill about how we would legislate for opposition and create that opposition.
“When I talk about opposition I'm talking about it in a positive way; I'm not about bringing Stormont down.
“I'm talking about having a choice. Your opposition provides two main functions; challenge and scrutiny of your government, providing the voters with an alternative government come election, and at the minute we have neither."
Mr McCallister was first elected to South Down in 2007 following the retirement of former Ulster Unionist MLA Dermot Nesbitt.
He was criticised in unionist quarters when he spoke at a Sinn Fein conference in Newry in November 2011.
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