Northern Ireland

Long-serving UUP councillor quits party over post-election plans to replace health minister

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor Paul Michael will remain as an independent representative

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor Paul Michael.
Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor Paul Michael.

AN Ulster Unionist councillor has quit the party after 30 years over post-General Election plans to replace Robin Swann as health minister with former leader Mike Nesbitt.

Paul Michael, who sits on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, said the proposal for Mr Nesbitt to take the health portfolio, should Mr Swann be successful in his bid to become MP for South Antrim, was a “bridge too far”.

Mr Michael told the Antrim Guardian newspaper that he could not “stomach” Mr Nesbitt as health minister, and would now serve as an independent councillor.

Mr Nesbitt quit his role as deputy chair of the Committee for The Executive Office in 2020 after it emerged he flouted lockdown rules to travel to stay with a friend on the north coast.

Mr Michael said of Mr Nesbitt as future health minister: “It’s madness and I for one can’t stomach that prospect.”

The councillor, who was first elected in 1999, also criticised the UUP’s reaction to MLA Steve Aiken’s suspension from Stormont for breaching the confidentiality of the Assembly complaints process.

A UUP spokesperson said the party was “disappointed” with Mr Michael’s decision, adding: “We wish him the best for the future.”