Cookstown Councillor Robert Kelly has decided to run the forthcoming elections as an independent candidate, after taking the decision to leave the Ulster Unionist Party.
In an exclusive interview with the MAIL, Robert said the decision ‘was taken out of his hands’ and described how he felt he had ‘no other choice’ but to leave the party and stand as an independent candidate.
It is understood Mr Kelly was not selected by the UUP to stand in the Magherafelt district electoral area.
Cllr Kelly, who has been a member of the UUP for six years, and has been working as a Councillor in the Cookstown district for the last 3 years said the decision to leave the party was a big one.
He told the MAIL: “The decision was taken out of my hands.
“With the boundary changes and extra candidates for the area, I was quite prepared to move areas but there were others that weren’t. So it left me in a situation where I had no other choice.
“Rather than give up on the people who had voted for me in the past election, I have been working in the area for 3 years and have got a lot of things done in the area, so in that perspective I wasn’t prepared to give up on that.”
Robert added that he felt other local representatives weren’t looking at the ‘bigger picture’: “There was the issue of other councillors that wanted to stay within their base but didn’t look at the bigger picture when it came to the boundary changes, it was all more or less self preservation whenever it came to the final decisions.
“They were looking after themselves rather than the interests of the party,” he said.
A UUP spokesperson responded to Mr Kelly’s comments, saying proper procedure had been followed in the selection process.
“George Shiels is a long-standing and highly respected local councillor.
“He was duly selected through the proper process by the Ulster Unionist Party to stand in the Magherafelt DEA in next month’s local government elections.
“It is a matter of regret that Robert Kelly wishes to stand as an independent.”
Speaking about what voters can expect should he be elected as an independent candidate, Robert said: ““As an independent candidate my credentials as a Unionist will not waver in the slightest.
“I will still represent the people that voted for me before.
“I have been involved in various projects throughout the area such as the village regeneration schemes, new play parks, all sorts of things that I have been doing, unfortunately some of the other councillors are not representing the Unionist people in the way I feel they should be.
“ Even as an independent I will be a strong voice within this new council.”
Robert continued: “The talk of all the cuts to the schools budgets was one project which I worked very strenuously on and that is one of the main ones I would like to continue to work on.
“We live in one of the nicest areas throughout Northern Ireland and the tourism potential for this area is something which I would also like to look strongly at.”