Northern Ireland news

Veteran unionist Jim Rodgers loses party whip over 'IRA' election leaflets

Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers is to be investigated by his party's disciplinary committee over local election leaflets. Picture by Philip Walsh

VETERAN Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers has been referred to the party's disciplinary officers after an election leaflet he issued claimed the Alliance was "closely aligned to the Provisional IRA's political wing".

UUP leader Robin Swann said last night he had removed the party whip from Mr Rodgers over the controversial leaflet, which was distributed to voters in the Ormiston ward of Belfast City Council before last week's election.

Alliance leader Naomi Long had complained that the leaflet had put her party councillors and workers at risk.

"This is a deliberate attempt by the UUP to link Alliance members to the IRA, in an area where our offices have been attacked, representatives have received death threats and some have been forced to leave their homes due to previous raising of tensions by the UUP and others," she said.

Council elections 2019: full results

UUP candidate Stephen McCarthy also claimed that the leaflet had cost him a council seat.

Mr Swann told Radio Ulster last night that the party would investigate Mr Rodgers' conduct.

He said when the leaflet was brought to his attention he clearly said it included "language that we would not use".

"It's language that I wouldn't use and it didn't help the overall interests of the Ulster Unionist Party," he said.

"I spoke to Naomi on Saturday night and made my feelings clear to her."

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