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McKenzie ends political career

John Manley Political Reporter

NI21's European candidate Tina McKenzie said last night she was finished with politics.

The west Belfast-born business-woman, who along with Basil McCrea and John McCallister has been the public face of the fledgling pro-union party, said she was "disillusioned and no longer interested in a politics".

The party chairwoman revealed her intentions to The Irish News following 72 hours of upheaval at the heart of NI21.

The 41-year-old also said she believed Mr McCrea's political career was over after allegations of inappropriate sexual against the NI21 leader.

Mr McCrea vehemently denies the accusations made by 23-year-old former party worker Ashleigh Murray.

The controversy that has rocked regional politics kicked off on Tuesday when the party's executive made a sudden move to redesignate its assembly status from 'unionist' to 'other'.

An outraged Mr McCallister, who along with leader Basil McCrea is the party's only elected representative, immediately took his grievance to the press and described the party executive as "dysfunctional".

As far as the South Down MLA was concerned, the redesignation was a cynical effort to distract attention from the allegations against the leader that were set to break once polling stations had closed on Thursday.

The controversy has split the party leadership and resulted in most of its executive standing down.

Last night Ms McKenzie ruled herself out as a future NI21 leader, saying she was quitting politics.

"I'm really disillusioned and I feel hurt and shocked by the whole episode," she said.

"I don't see any future in politics." Notably, however, she wished deputy leader Mr McCallister, pictured above, well.

"If John wants to lead NI21 then good luck to him," she said.

Ms McKenzie insisted the party had acted correctly since the allegations against Mr McCrea emerged three weeks ago.

But Mr McCallister was not as conciliatory. He said Ms McKenzie had played a role on in making the party executive dysfunctional.

When asked if he planned to continue with the party and if he would consider taking on the leader's role if Mr McCrea stepped down, the former Ulster Unionist deputy leader said: "I'm not sure if there's much left to lead at the moment.

"My priority is dealing with the very serious allegations that are emerging involving a member of NI21 staff."

Mr McCrea was last night unavailable for comment.

Earlier in the day, the NI21 leader confirmed he had emailed NI21 party colleagues on Thursday acknowledging that allegations of "inappropriate sexual activity" had been levelled against him.

"There obviously are social media rumours and such like, there is a specific allegation coming forward now, and now there is such a thing, then I can go and respond to it," he said.

"In these issues it's important you respond in the appropriate way and I will be looking to see how we can do that."

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