TUV North Down members ‘betrayed’ by Alex Easton giving DUP assembly seat

Jim Allister’s party claims the newly-elected North Down MP gave assurances that he would nominate an independent unionist

Newly-appointed DUP MLA Peter Martin with party leader Gavin Robinson

The TUV has said its members in North Down feel “deeply betrayed” by Alex Easton’s decision to give his assembly seat to the DUP.

Former DUP special adviser and North Down and Ards councillor Peter Martin is being co-opted into Mr Easton’s vacant assembly seat.

But the TUV claims the newly-elected North Down MP, who quit the DUP three years ago citing a lack of “respect, discipline or decency”, gave assurances that he would nominate an independent unionist as his replacement in the assembly.

The TUV did not run a candidate in North Down and endorsed Mr Easton early in the campaign as “the only unionist candidate” capable of unseating Alliance’s Stephen Farry.

The co-option gives the DUP 26 assembly seats, just one behind Sinn Féin. However, the appointment has no bearing on Stormont’s D’Hondt-based allocations as these are based on the first day of the assembly term.

Mr Martin, who was previously a special adviser to former Stormont education minister Peter Weir and who worked for the DUP during the recent election campaign, is now listed as on the party’s website as one of its assembly team.

Alex Easton, Independent Unionist candidate, after he was elected for the North Down constituency, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast
Independent unionist MP Alex Easton. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

In a statement issued by DUP headquarters, the former councillor thanked Mr Easton for his endorsement.

“I will first and foremost be a voice for North Down and to deliver on the day to day issues they face,” he said.

“I want also to be a positive pro-union voice within the assembly chamber and demonstrate the benefits we will receive from being part of our United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Gavin Robinson said the election in North Down demonstrated “what can be achieved when various strands of unionism come together to maximise pro-union representation”.

“The DUP not only endorsed Alex Easton as a candidate, but representatives, members and supporters played a part in the successful campaign,” the East Belfast MP said.

But the TUV, which must make its own co-option to replace Jim Allister in the assembly, is unhappy with Mr Martin’s appointment.

“We are disappointed that Alex Easton did not keep his word to us and Reform UK that he would appoint an independent person to his assembly seat,” a TUV spokesperson said.

“This was given both to local members of the party and Jim and Ben Habib. The TUV members who worked hard on his campaign understandably feel deeply betrayed.”

Alliance executive minister Andrew Muir also voiced dissatisfaction.

“If you ever wanted a clear, blatant and unashamed example of vote Easton, get DUP this is it – sadly I am not surprised in the slightest,” he posted on X.