The Ulster Unionist Party appears to be in meltdown approaching the 6C Assembly and local elections on 5th May.
Health minister Michael McGimpsey announced the cancellation of a planned building of a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry on the last days sitting of the assembly before the elections. All parties have come out to criticise the decision, which was to be part funded by the 26C government.
The DUP MLA Jim Wells, said there was no case for postponement.
“The Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit was treated specially and differently from any other project. The finance minister allocated the £27m and ring-fenced it to health. The Fine Gael-Labour government is committed to giving the money to Altnagelvin. In addition, the Irish government have planned to fund a third of the revenue because there will be patients coming from Sligo, Donegal, and Leitrim to the new unit. That means that the capital cost is effectively free to the department and a substantial part of the revenue is free.”
Earlier, the Irish Republic’s Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, said his government was still committed to providing 19m euros for capital costs and also ongoing funds. He said the unit was an “ideal solution” for the radiotherapy needs of people from across the north-west of Ireland.
But not only is McGimpsey blaming financial constraint, he’s also blaming the 26C government.
His spokeperson claimed “He tried repeatedly to get a response from the southern government and got none. So he could not go ahead and announce it because a third of the business case was not going to be approved.”
James O’Reilly has has refuted this saying he had made a number of attempts to clarify his position.
“I wrote to the minister yesterday,” he said. “We had a number of attempted telephone calls which failed to materialise. I have restated very much the government’s commitment to the Altnagelvin facility and we look forward to this happening when the new government is formed up there. But our position remains unchanged. We are fully supportive of it.”
The UUP deputy chair has resigned in protest over McGimpsey’s move, also noting it’s timing. In a statement Mr Wright said his position had become “untenable” after what he described as an “ill-advised and untimely” decision by Michael McGimpsey.
If that’s not enough, three senior figures in the party have got themselves involved in a blazing row over whether or not they could accept Martin McGuinness as first minister in the next assembly should SF emerge as the largest party, unlikely as it is. When interviewed by Steven Nolan, both John McCallister, deputy leader of the UUP assembly party, and Basil McCrea, senior party member and loser in the recent leadership contest, have said that if that was how people voted they would respect that outcome. But David McNarry has come out all guns blazing and launched an amazing attack on both men live on the Nolan show. He has accused both of stabbing ‘the leader’ in the back, said they could ‘leave the party tomorrow’ and wouldn’t be missed.
He also point blank refused to encourage people to vote for either man, members of his own party.
The podcast really is worth a listen, McNarry loses the plot….
(Nolan interviews McCallister and McCrea from 5 mins. in to 10 mins.
McNarry rings the show from 52 mins in to 1hr 28 mins. )
That was yesterday and the three men have since met with party leader Tom Elliot claiming they had reached an agreed position and that the men had apologised to each other. This has been denied by both McCallister and McCrea
And of course to top it all of we get to the sex scandal, although also a very serious matter.
A key advisor to UUP Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy has been sacked after boasting in an internet chat room of ‘abusing his position to influence policy for lobbyists in return for sexual favours.’ The Ulster Unionist politico, who is right at the heart of Government in Northern Ireland, described in a series of online conversations “grooming” lobbyists before suggesting to them that he could carry out their wishes in exchange for sexual favours.
The 40-year-old Special Adviser, Dr. Brian Crowe described himself as an “intellectual slut”.
All in all a disastrous few days for the UUP and with recent fairly high profile defections to the Alliance Party this could spell electoral wipe out for the UUP and ironically boast DUP votes ensuring Martin McGuinness doesn’t get the joint top job.
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