Northern Ireland news

Alliance to UUP defector Carole Howard says she can now voice pro-union views 'openly and comfortably'

Belfast councillor Carole Howard has defected from Alliance to the UUP. Picture by Michael Cooper

AN east Belfast councillor who has defected from Alliance to the Ulster Unionists has said the move enables her to "openly and comfortably express" pro-union views.

Carole Howard, who represents the Titanic district electoral area (DEA), said she felt increasingly isolated as unionist in the party whose stance on the union is characterised as 'agnostic'.

Alliance has described the move as an "act of bad faith for the constituents of the Titanic DEA".

Ms Howard plans to remain on Belfast City Council as an Ulster Unionist, bringing the party's representation on the north's largest local authority to three.

The UUP ranks include Jim Rodgers, who during the 2019 council election circulated a leaflet claiming Alliance was “closely aligned” with “the IRA's political wing”.

Ms Howard joined Alliance in 2007 and was elected to the former Castlereagh council in 2011.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie described Ms Howard as "exactly the type of elected representative we want to attract, encourage and promote".

"She has a long-established track record of dedicated public service and I am glad that she wishes to continue that public service with the Ulster Unionist Party," he said.

"Carole's enthusiasm and experience will help drive change. I would encourage others who are thinking about it, who want to be part of a driver for change in politics and across society, to join the Ulster Unionist Party as we focus on the reality of creating a union of people across Northern Ireland.”

Ms Howard said she wanted to "build a true union of people in Belfast and beyond".

"This is the right move at the right time for me," she said.

"I have pro-union views and feel that I can now openly and comfortably express them to help promote a confident, progressive brand of unionism. I like what Doug is doing and I want to play my part in helping make Northern Ireland a more welcoming society for everyone."

A statement from Alliance said the party was "disappointed", adding that Ms Howard "has not engaged with the party over any concerns she may feel she had".

“This is an act of bad faith for the constituents of the Titanic DEA, who elected an Alliance representative," the statement said.

"It is up to her to explain why she has gone against those wishes and defected to another party."

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