A young Limavady councillor has joined the DUP after resigning from the UUP.
Aaron Callan, who was elected to council two years ago after polling 452 first preference votes, said he had thought long and hard about the switch of allegiance.
In a statement, he said: “It has become clear over the last twelve months that the DUP is now the mainstream unionist party. I have felt uncomfortable within the UUP, and its leader, for some time now given its drift further from what I believe are Unionist values and principles.
“First and foremost my interest is in best representing my constituents and my local area. The reason I stood for election in 2011 and 2014 was my love and passion for my local area of Limavady and the wider East Londonderry area.
“I have been concerned for some time that East Londonderry was becoming irrelevant to the members of the Ulster Unionist Assembly group. This has disheartened me greatly particularly at a time when so many other rank and file unionists are joining the DUP at grassroots level.
“The DUP, under the leadership of Arlene Foster, is providing a confident vision for Northern Ireland underpinned by a plan that has widespread support.”
Welcoming the new party member, Mrs Foster, who is also First Minister, said: “He is a talented and enthusiastic public representative who cares deeply about his local area. As a councillor on the Causeway Coast and Glens Council Aaron will fit in well with our strong team in East Londonderry led by Gregory Campbell MP.”
Mr Campbell said: “The Democratic Unionist Party is long established as the main unionist party in the area as well as across Northern Ireland, this is not about the UUP now not having any elected representation in the Limavady area but it is about building for the future and Aaron’s decision to join with us is further vindication of the stance we are taking.”
In a terse statement, the UUP said: “We have built our success in recent years on teamwork. On that basis councillor Callan is unlikely to be missed.”