The DUP’s Paul Givan is confident that some of his party’s officers, who have resigned from their posts in South Down but are Lagan Valley constituents, will still be giving the DUP their vote in his constituency despite stating their support for TUV candidate Harold McKee over Diane Forsythe.
t’s after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the seven senior DUP officers had resigned en masse and launched a blistering attack on the current DUP leadership for failing to communicate with them over recent times, claiming they weren’t consulted over a decision to select Diane Forsythe to contest the South Down seat.
But Mr Givan told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme the former officers, whom he counts as friends, would still be giving the former First Minister their number one vote come May 5.
The former First Minister has been an MLA in Lagan Valley since 2010, and will run alongside only one other DUP colleague in next week’s Assembly election – his party leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme on Tuesday, Mr Givan said: “I’m sorry to lose the individuals that have walked away from us in South Down.
“I know all the individuals and I count them as friends. Some of them that are in that photo [pictured below] are from the Lagan Valley constituents and I’ve been speaking to them in the run-up to this announcement, and they’re giving me their number one vote.”
Mr Givan added that he believes Diane Forysthe will get elected in South Down, and is “confident” that the unionist community knows there’s only one unionist seat in the area.
“They know the risks of splitting their vote in that constituency and I believe that Diane Forsythe will get elected, because every vote for the DUP is going to matter, not just in south Down, but it’s going to matter right across Northern Ireland so that we can pursue our progressive agenda whenever it comes to delivering at Stormont,” he said.
“I think in other constituencies, individuals will be supporting the DUP and that’s what’s happening with some of those folks in south Down. I am confident that the unionist people will recognise in south Down that Diane Forsythe is our best candidate to win for unionism.”
One of those to resign, the DUP’s South Down Association chairman Roland Wilson, said local members been “treated with disdain”.
“Not once in the entire selection process was I or any other member of the DUP South Down Association consulted about this crucial decision (to nominate Mrs Forsythe),” he said.
The six other senior figures resigning include current vice chairman David Herron; Garth Craig, a former councillor and association chairman; association secretary William Burns — also a council member for 24 years — and youth wing activist Clifford Wilson. The founder members leaving are Fergus Bingham — who joined the party when it was formed in 1971 — and Olive Craig, a member for more than 40 years.
In response the DUP thanked those who have resigned “for their service to the party” but warned them the TUV is unlikely to win a seat in the constituency, which only has one full unionist quota. The DUP also warned against further rancour and division between the unionist parties ahead of the May 5 poll.
“The TUV can’t stop Sinn Fein’s divisive border poll plans. Only the DUP can win,” a spokesman said. “On the doorsteps unionist voters across South Down are crying out for unity. Further splits and rancour in unionism serves no useful purpose, they said.