A UUP representative from Cookstown has paid tribute to UUP leader Tom Elliot after his dramatic announcement not to seek re-election at the parties AGM this month.
Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson said the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA would have been under immense pressure from both “inside and outside the party” during his reign as leader.
The Cookstown councillor described his regret at Mr Elliot’s decision, calling him a “tireless worker for Ulster Unionism”.
Councillor Wilson said: “It was with great sadness and regret that I learnt of Tom’s decision to stand down as leader of the party.
“I have known Tom for quite some time and always found him to be a man of great integrity and a tireless worker for Ulster Unionism. Leadership can often be a thankless task and I can only guess the amount of pressure from both inside and outside the party that Tom has been subjected to. It must have been immense to make him come to this decision.”
Mr Elliott was elected UUP leader in 2010, beating his only rival Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea 643 votes to 296 following the resignation of previous leader Sir Reg Empey.
In a statement to the media last week, Mr Elliott said that while he considered leading the party an honour, he felt he had not been given a “fair opportunity” and described facing “obstruction and hostility” during his 18-month tenure.
Mr Elliott has been plagued by storms since becoming leader.
In September 2010, several members of his party left when he said he would not attend any GAA matches or homosexual events.
Then the following month he was censured by a south Belfast Orange lodge along with Danny Kennedy for attending the funeral mass of tragic PSNI murder victim Ronan Kerr.
In May 2011, Mr Elliott was slammed for, during his acceptance speech following the Assembly election, referring to Sinn Fein supporters as scum.
When booed for referring to people holding tricolours as having the flag of a foreign nation, he said that he would expect nothing better from “the scum of Sinn Fein”.
Since the announcement many high profile politicians paid tribute to Mr Elliot’s work.
First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I had a good relationship with Tom Elliott in his time as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.”
“In particular, I pay tribute to his efforts to build greater unionist co-operation.
“I wish him well as he continues as an MLA in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.”
UUP party colleague Danny Kennedy, who is tipped for the leader role along with Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt, also praised Mr Elliot’s work.
“I want to pay a warm and genuine tribute to his many fine qualities of honesty, integrity and leadership which he has displayed throughout his tenure as leader,” he said.
Councillor Wilson added: “I personally want to thank him for the leadership he have shown not just to the members of the party but to the people of Northern Ireland and I am glad that he will be staying on as an MLA”.