NI21 ‘nothing but chameleons’ says Mid-Ulster MLA

Belfast MLA Basil McCrea (right) at the launch of NI21 (Northern Ireland 21st Century) - a new political party to set up an official Opposition at the Stormont Assembly - at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 6, 2013. The pair are to head up NI21 (Northern Ireland 21st Century), a pro-union party which they hope will get the backing of Protestants and Catholics disillusioned with mainstream parties that have seats at Parliament Buildings in Belfast. They said the name was chosen to build on a modernising Northern Ireland identity, and offer voters an opportunity to support a party which they claim is not tied to the baggage of the 20th century legacy and conflict. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Belfast MLA Basil McCrea (right) at the launch of NI21 (Northern Ireland 21st Century) - a new political party to set up an official Opposition at the Stormont Assembly - at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 6, 2013. The pair are to head up NI21 (Northern Ireland 21st Century), a pro-union party which they hope will get the backing of Protestants and Catholics disillusioned with mainstream parties that have seats at Parliament Buildings in Belfast. They said the name was chosen to build on a modernising Northern Ireland identity, and offer voters an opportunity to support a party which they claim is not tied to the baggage of the 20th century legacy and conflict. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

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A MID-ULSTER MLA has hit out at newly formed political party NI21 after its leader said the constituency offered “huge potential” to gain voters.

DUP assemblyman Ian McCrea launched a scathing attack on the party, after leader Basil McCrea told the MAIL it would be targeting non-voters ‘fed up’ with what he called a ‘sectarian head count’ in Mid-Ulster.

In response the DUP politician described the party, formed by the Lagan Valley MLA and former Ulster Unionist colleague John McCallister, as “chameleons” that “change their morals” to win votes.

He also attacked the party for tweeting in Irish.

“Having considered this statement from Basil, I think that he should concentrate on getting his own house in order instead of trying to make inroads in constituencies that are already stretched thin with unionist representation,” Mr McCrea said.

“Anyone I have spoken to regarding this new party have just laughed, but also expressed that they have no appetite for another split in the Mid Ulster vote and they especially don’t want a party that tweets in Irish for the sole purpose of vote winning.

Mr McCrea continued: “NI21 are positioning themselves to be a party that is different from the rest, but as far as I can see they are nothing but chameleons that change their message and morals to suit whatever area they are trying to win votes in.”

Speaking to the MAIL last week, Basil McCrea said it was the decision by his former party the UUP and the DUP for an agreed candidate in the Mid-Ulster by-election in March, which forced both him and John McCallister to leave.

He also revealed that a sizeable number of people from this constituency turned up for the launch of his new party.

“The Mid Ulster constituency offers huge potential for NI21,” the Lagan Valley MLA told the MAIL.

“Our party offers a break from the sectarian head count which has dominated Mid Ulster politics over the past two decades, and allows voters to support a strong Northern Irish identity and positive policies.

Mr McCrea also pledged to field NI21 candidates in all the forthcoming elections in Mid Ulster for the ‘growing numbers’ of voters here who he said did not identify with ‘sectarian politics’.