THE Conservative Party in the north have hit out at the decision of their former partners in the Ulster Unionists to leave the Stormont executive, describing the move as "opportunistic" and the power-sharing institution as "a joke."
Together the two parties formed the short-lived Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force, which was dissolved in 2012 amidst acrimonious internal wrangling.
On Wednesday, following the UUP's announcement, Conservative secretary of state Theresa Villiers said the move was "a matter for the Ulster Unionist Party who take their own decisions."
Neil Wilson, who contested the east Belfast seat for the Conservatives in May's Westminster election, said the Ulster Unionists had played a "pathetic role" as junior parties in the mandatory coalition.
He said: "The Ulster Unionists have removed themselves from the executive because they have finally recognised what the public has known for years – the executive is a joke."
"We have long argued for the need for an opposition unfortunately the UUP were taken for fools by the DUP and Sinn Féin and have accepted for years their pathetic role as ‘junior partners’."