Northern Ireland news

Alliance councillor targeted in leaflet calls for apology and retraction from Ulster Unionist Jim Rodgers

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers has had the party whip reinstated. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

VETERAN Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers has had the Ulster Unionist whip reinstated two years after his role in distributing a controversial election leaflet.

But one of the councillors targeted by the former lord mayor and fellow UUP local government candidate Peter Johnston, in a leaflet that claimed Alliance had a record of "voting with the Provisional IRA's political wing", has called for an "apology and retraction".

The controversial election leaflet saw the then UUP leader Robin Swann remove the whip from Mr Rodgers, while Mr Johnston failed to get reelected to the council.

But a fortnight ago, in one of his final acts as leader, Steve Aiken reinstated the whip for Mr Rodgers, who said that despite offers to join other parties during the two year sanction, remained loyal to the Ulster Unionists.

An Ulster Unionist spokesperson said: "The party whip was removed from Jim Rodgers in May 2019.

"Mr Rodgers apologised for his comments and the whip was restored on May 5 2021."

But it has emerged that the one-time UUP vice president apologised only to his own party and not to Alliance.

Mr Rodgers told The Irish News that he thought Mr Swann's sanction was "quite harsh".

"I don't seek to offend anybody in Alliance and wouldn't wish to do that," he said.

However, he declined to say sorry to those targeted.

Alliance councillor Peter McReynolds said he was disappointed by Mr Rodgers, who has been a councillor for 28 years and is the city council's longest-serving elected representative.

"Internal disciplinary measures are a matter for the UUP, however, to date myself and my colleagues targeted by these disgusting comments from councillor Rodgers have yet to receive any form of apology and retraction from him," Mr McReynolds said.

"Clearly, that is disappointing, but it is perhaps something which the new UUP leadership will address in due course."

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