The former deputy chairman of the UUP, Terry Wright, has revealed the reason he decided to leave the party was over the cancellation of the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.
In a candid statement he said the cancellation by the former health Minister Michael McGimpsey of his plans for the much-needed radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry that would serve the regrettably high number of people of all ages required to make the stressful and tiring daily return journey to Belfast, sometimes by public transport, for treatment was behind his decision.
He said it was also his view that the decision was “an indication of a lack of consensual decision-making at Stormont” that had become a place for political point scoring and partisan politicking, not least over Health.
“As a member of the UUP, I held the view that the UUP Minister had taken an action that did not serve the community or the party well. I remain of the same view. Whilst I enjoyed the support and understanding of the overwhelming number of UUP members within the Foyle Constituency my decision created difficulties for the UUP, in particular Tom Elliott MLA, who was leading the party into his first election as leader, and the candidates for local government and the Assembly about to go before the electorate. The nature of the decision and the party processes which allowed it to be taken in the manner that prevailed, made this unavoidable,” he said.
“The fact that many of the candidates were party colleagues and friends served only to increase my discomfort which was only partly assuaged by the re-election of Mary Hamilton. She had supported and fully understood the action I had taken.
“Within the Foyle Constituency and the North West the DUP and Sinn Fein parties exploited the situation to the full. Their candidates and party spokespersons robustly and energetically attacked and demonised the UUP. When I joined some of these for comment on Radio Foyle there was a refusal to acknowledge that the negative politics evident within the Assembly and the badgering of the UUP Minister of Health had contributed in any way. There were also assurances that the unit would be built and made operational.
“The DUP incorrectly claimed the absence of a UUP candidate in the Assembly election was due to the decision pertaining to the Unit. This was not the case.
“Now we find that in 2014, the Unit is still not built or operational and Minister Edwin Poots has announced that the training of staff may be delayed.
“Where now are the voices of the DUP and Sinn Fein? There are no protests or the constant clamour of condemnation on the airwaves. Was it just crocodile tears and an election ploy? Is the decision to delay any more acceptable now than before? Are party interests being put before the needs of the people and promises made?
“I am confident I speak for the community in saying the need for the radiotherapy unit is as real now as it was during the last Assembly election.
“Those who represent Foyle and the greater North West need to act to ensure the delivery of the facility without delay.
“Those who need its services cannot get by on empty promises and what passes for government at Stormont.”