General Election

Local Tory suspended from party after claims about Theresa May Balmoral visit

Conservative assembly election candidate Roger Lomas

A leading Northern Ireland Conservative who claimed activists were ordered to remove their rosettes during the prime minister's visit to the north last month has been suspended from the party.

The Conservatives have denied the claims by Roger Lomas, a candidate in March's assembly election, who said members were told not to display their party colours at the Balmoral Show for "for fear it would upset the DUP".

Theresa May flew into the north on May 15 for a brief surprise trip to the Maze site near Lisburn.

She was pictured meeting DUP leader Arlene Foster, who was also attending the final day of the annual agriculture event.

A Conservative Party spokesman said yesterday that "at no point" were candidates instructed to remove rosettes.

He also said no opposition party was informed of the election campaign visit in advance.

But Mr Lomas, who received just 27 votes in West Tyrone in March's Stormont election, said he was standing by his claim.

"It is my well-informed view that activists were told to remove their rosettes," he said yesterday.

The Irish News incorrectly reported yesterday that Mr Lomas was present at Balmoral Show when Mrs May appeared.

He said he and other NI Conservatives were not told about the visit – much to their disappointment.

"Dozens of us would have liked to have shown up at Balmoral to demonstrate our support for the prime minister but it was all kept hush-hush," he said.

Mr Lomas stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity rather than as Fermanagh and Tyrone Conservative Association chairman.

However, the party's regional leadership moved to suspend Mr Lomas yesterday.

As well as his claim about activists being ordered to remove rosettes, he suggested the prime minister and Mrs Foster were likely to have discussed the possibility of DUP support for the Tories ahead of last week's election.

"The speed with which she turned to the DUP, one would think the groundwork had already been done," he said.

Mr Lomas also predicted that the Conservative-DUP relationship would last "between six weeks and six months".

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