DUP members quit amid claims of purge against those opposed to Poots leadership

ireland
Dup Members Quit Amid Claims Of Purge Against Those Opposed To Poots Leadership
DUP members have claimed they faced intimidation and bullying.
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David Young, PA

Several DUP members in the South Down constituency have quit the party amid claims of a purge against those opposed to the leadership of Edwin Poots.

Newry, Mourne and Down councillors Kathryn Owen and Glyn Hanna and former Westminster election candidate Diane Forsythe, who is Mr Hanna’s daughter, are among a number to have left the party amid a bitter row over the ousting of former leader Arlene Foster and the subsequent election of Mr Poots.

Their departures follow a vote to remove Mr Hanna as the chair of the DUP South Down Association at an AGM meeting at the weekend.

Defeated leadership candidate Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was highly regrettable that “senior and valued members now feel the DUP is no longer a warm house for them”.

'Purge'

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Mr Hanna said moves to remove him and other office holders in the constituency represented a “purge” of those who voiced concern at how Mrs Foster was treated and who supported Sir Jeffrey in the subsequent leadership contest.

“I believe this is the beginning of the purge of anyone who spoke against the leadership so I encourage others in the DUP with decency and integrity to consider their position,” he said.

Mr Hanna claimed there had been “open and unashamed bullying” by some in the party.

He alleged some party members faced intimidation and bullying at a meeting of the DUP executive in Belfast last month when Mr Poots’ election was formally ratified.

He claimed some of those who raised their hands in support of holding a secret ballot on the ratification of Mr Poot were told to take their hands down.

In her resignation statement, Ms Owen said: “It is apparent to me that there is a purging of Donaldson supporters, and it is only a matter of time before this continues across the party. It would be against my principles as a veteran, mother and independent woman to stand idly by and allow this behaviour to continue, rewarded by my silence and inaction.”

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She added: “I joined the DUP under Sir Jeffrey’s counsel. I believed wholeheartedly that the DUP was heading in a brighter direction, and I wanted to be part of that. It is now clear to me that this is misguided. No one from the Poots camp has reached out to me despite being a clear Donaldson supporter and friend.

“I have concerns over the future direction of the DUP, with many talented women and moderate individuals within the DUP feeling voiceless. The only way to stop this coercion and control is to remove the fuel that feeds it and empower those voices. My constituents care about their health, education, the protocol and the pound in their pocket, the current direction of the DUP does not place these concerns front and centre for their vision.”

In a statement, Ms Forsythe said she had faced “disrespectful attitudes” within the party, including “shameful sexism, ageism and the underlying tone of bullying”.

'Bullying'

She said the bullying was now in “plain sight”, with members’ families “bullied and smeared” during the leadership contest.

“I can no longer be a part of this Party in its journey to derail my precious country of Northern Ireland in this its Centenary year,” she said.

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She added: “The disintegration of this Party in recent times has left me no option but to leave.

“The Leadership of this Party chose not to listen, chose not to acknowledge the divide in the Party and repeatedly voiced their view that we need to ignore our differences and do what the Leadership says.

“The public ousting from all who supported Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in Assembly posts was bad enough but the local treatment of my father was an absolute disgrace.”

Ms Forsythe concluded: “The DUP have taken a path catastrophic for Unionism and I can only hope that it can be recovered in some way by other means.”

Sir Jeffrey, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, voiced his concern.

“I fear that if Edwin fails to quickly get a grip of this situation, then many others may also conclude that the DUP is no longer capable of being a broad church and providing a home for the type of unionism we espouse,” he said.

“Recognising that many within the party have serious concerns about the manner in which Arlene was removed, and about the future direction of the party, I have sought quietly to reassure those who supported me and who have contemplated resignation.

Unity

“Specifically, in relation to our South Down Association, I had encouraged officers and members to attend the AGM and to continue participating in the work of the party. These efforts were thrown back in their face on Saturday in what can only be described as a purge of loyal members who have served our party well, but whom some deemed unacceptable because they had supported me at the recent Executive meeting. There are elements running amok in South Down who are destroying any hope of building party unity.”

In a statement, the DUP said: “The South Down Association held its AGM on Saturday. Some of the members who have resigned, sought re-election to hold office within the Party. It is disappointing they have chosen to resign from the Party, following the outcome of the meeting. We thank them for their service. The Party takes these matters very seriously and any complaints should be made in writing to enable a thorough and fair investigation.”

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