McCrea 'happy' after UUP hearing
Concerns have been voiced about the impact that negative publicity is making it harder to attract tourists to Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea said tonight he was happy to have an opportunity to outline his position during a Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) disciplinary hearing over his position on the flag issue.
The outspoken Lagan Valley Assembly member described the three-hour meeting at party headquarters in east Belfast as professional but said officials had given no indication of their determination. Mr McCrea lost the party whip in December when he opposed his party’s stance on the union flag and contended that it was party policy that the flag just fly on designated days.
Speaking after today's meeting, Mr McCrea said: “I am happy that I have had the chance to say my piece.
“It is hard to know what comes out of these things but I put my case across. I am pretty convinced that I am on the policy. I will stand by what I said and what I did.”
Mr McCrea was accompanied in the meeting by a note-taker. He was not allowed to take a legal representative but arrived at the offices on Belmont Road carrying a large blue file of papers and claimed he had a good case.
The five-person panel questioned him on the stance taken in regard to the Union flag crisis.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt took the disciplinary action after Mr McCrea criticised the party’s handling of the flag issue. But Mr McCrea’s day of reckoning with party officials had been postponed twice since he had the whip removed last month.
The controversy first flared when Mr McCrea described as a “stupid idea” a joint attempt by the UUP and DUP to get the Assembly Commission to examine whether the flag should be flown more regularly at Stormont.
Mr Nesbitt accused his party colleague of having an “inability to exercise self-discipline” or be a team player. He claimed he was doing enormous damage to the UUP.
However, Mr McCrea has insisted his views are consistent with past UUP policy on flags. He added: “Whether they agree with what I have said, well, that is up to them. I am comfortable as to what I have done.”
Mr McCrea had declined a request to keep details of the meeting private, insisting that the public had a right to hear what had happened.
Last week he voted against his party in the Assembly. He refused to support a DUP amendment to a UUP motion that deleted a reference to the Belfast Agreement. He said he would have to await the outcome of tonight’s hearing before considering his next move.
Meanwhile, in a statement the UUP said the committee would analyse Mr McCrea’s representations. A spokesman said: “The determination of the committee will be issued in due course.”