Ruth Patterson: Emma Pengelly name change ‘smacks of desperation'

The DUP's Emma Pengelly and Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson
The DUP's Emma Pengelly and Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson The DUP's Emma Pengelly and Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson

PROMINENT unionist Ruth Patterson has launched an attack on election rival Emma Pengelly amid claims the DUP minister has changed her name to appear higher on ballot papers.

The independent Belfast councillor said suggestions that Ms Pengelly had changed her name to Emma Little Pengelly would "smack of such desperation".

"How pathetic would it be if the DUP had to go to such lengths to try to sneak an advantage in South Belfast?" she said.

"If we get into the silly situation of changing names to be ahead on the ballot paper I could always alter my name to a fancy double-barrelled one, but such actions would be so ridiculous and pathetic I would not insult the electorate."

Last week in press statements the DUP began referring to the South Belfast MLA as 'Emma Little Pengelly'.

Literature sent to constituents in recent days also made the change to include her maiden name.

It has been suggested that the move would enable her name to appear higher up the list of candidates which appears alphabetically on ballot papers during the forthcoming assembly election.

Candidates are believed to gain a slight electoral advantage if their names are listed towards the top of ballot papers.

Ms Patterson was expelled from the DUP in November after criticising the leadership for appointing Ms Pengelly as both an MLA and junior minister within the space of a month.

She will now stand against Ms Pengelly, a former special adviser to Peter Robinson, as an independent MLA candidate.

The councillor's election campaign is being managed by loyalist flag protester turned blogger Jamie Bryson.

Ms Pengelly (36) is married to the Department of Health's permanent secretary Richard Pengelly.

Yesterday Ms Patterson (60) said she was "astounded" by claims over the DUP candidate's name change.

"There has been some suggestion that this is a ploy to get above me on the ballot paper. I don't for one minute think this is true because it would smack of such desperation," she said.

But she added: "For the record I believe that Emma is perfectly entitled to use whichever name she chooses.

"How Emma deals with her personal affairs, in terms of whether she uses her own name or her husband's – or both – is entirely a matter for Emma and her campaign team."

A DUP spokesman said: "Emma's Twitter handle has been 'Little Pengelly' since before she was even an MLA. That's the factual reality.

"Someone has just noticed this and foolishly jumped to the wrong conclusion. It's a nonsense to suggest this is a recent change. The facts speak for themselves."