DUP leader Edwin Potts has denied carrying out a purge against dissenting voices in the party, after several members resigned.
He described the resignations of two of his party’s advisers in South Down as “marginal” but said he would “continue to reach out to the people”.
“I think it’s marginal but nevertheless I don’t want to lose anyone from the party and so I will continue to reach out to people to strive to ensure that we keep as many people as possible and get people to the party, and that’s a course of action that we’re going to engage in because basically the DUP is a group There are strong individuals and personalities but the first focus of all those personalities is to maintain the union.”
“We can’t do it in a split way.”
Mr. Potts was speaking on the Spotlight show that is scheduled to air Tuesday night.
Earlier, DUP Deputy Leader Paula Bradley dismissed allegations of bullying and sexism linked to the leadership contest that saw Mr Potts elected to succeed ousted Arlene Foster.
However, Bradley conceded that the controversial vote to certify Mr Potts might have been best conducted at a meeting of the party’s chief executive last month by secret ballot.
The Army of North Belfast, who was elected deputy leader in the same contest that saw Mr Potts take the helm, defended the party after three resigning members made a series of incendiary allegations.
Council members Newry, Morne and Dawn Catherine Owen and Glen Hanna, and former Westminster candidate for election Diane Forsyth, who is Mr. Hanna’s daughter, are among a number of those who have left the party amid a bitter dispute over Mrs Foster’s dismissal and the subsequent election of Mr. Potts.
They claimed that they were victims of a purge.
Ms Bradley replied: “There have been some unfortunate things that have happened, resignations that have happened, but I would certainly say we’re not doing a purge.”
The latest resignations followed a move to remove Mr Hanna as chairperson of the DUP’s South Down Assembly, and Ms Forsyth as secretary, at a meeting over the weekend.
Mr. Hanna announced his decision to resign, claiming that some party members had been intimidated and bullied at the DUP’s chief executive meeting in Belfast last month, when Potts was officially confirmed elected.
He alleged that some of those who raised their hands in support of a secret ballot of ratification were asked to raise their hands.
Bradley said she did not witness such scenes at the meeting but vowed to investigate the allegations.
She said that a secret ballot was perhaps the best way to conduct a vote on ratification.
She told BBC Radio Ulster: “If there had been a secret ballot Edwin would have won the secret ballot, but, yes, if he had calmed down what we have now, well, of course, it was too late, sure.”
Mr Hanna said the “purge” was continuing against those who had expressed concern about the way Ms Foster had been treated and who had backed Sir Geoffrey Donaldson in his subsequent leadership contest.
In a statement, Ms Forsyth said she faced “disrespectful attitudes” within the party, including “shameful sexism, ageism and the underlying tone of bullying”.
She said the bullying is now in “in plain sight,” with the members’ families “bullying and vilification” during a leadership contest.
“I can no longer be a part of this party on its journey to disrupt my dear country Northern Ireland on this centenary,” she said. – PA
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