Tom Elliott, who resigned as Ulster Unionist leader last night, says he quit because of growing tensions within the party. He also says there has been an “uneasy atmosphere” in the Ulster Unionist Party in recent days and claimed that some of his colleagues have been making life difficult for him by briefing journalists “lies”.
In an exclusive interview with The Impartial Reporter, Mr. Elliott says he has “no regrets” about his time in charge, adding: “I would have liked to have done more, and I would have liked to have done better. I didn’t achieve all I could have and that is disappointing”.
And he criticised those Ulster Unionist members who have stepped out of line.
“There are people who are constantly trying to make life difficult for me by briefing journalists – this is a serious issue. Yesterday for example, Danny Kennedy phoned me because someone within the party told him I was planning a reshuffle and there was a possibility he would lose his Ministerial position. So you see, we have people [in the party] who are determined to cause unease,” he said.
Mr. Elliott’s leadership hasn’t been without its problems; from refusing to attend a GAA match to calling Sinn Fein “scum”, it hasn’t been an easy ride for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA. But he has hit back at what he described as “negative coverage” in the press.
“There are journalists who are constantly against me and the party. They never have anything positive to say; they just want to pull me down. It doesn’t matter if our party has something positive to announce; there are journalists who wouldn’t want to know that – they just want to focus on the negatives. And there are some members of the party who want to feed lies rather that truths to these journalists,” he said.
Mr. Elliott made the decision to quit yesterday afternoon following a difficult week “behind the scenes”. The first person he told was his wife. He says a “build-up” of problems and issues within the party cemented his decision to leave.
“I blame the continual build-up of collective issues and the small number of individuals who wanted to make life difficult for me. It wasn’t easy but I looked at the party and thought if I was the one that was bringing it down then the best thing to do was move on,” he said.
Mr. Elliott said he has attempted to “progress the party” and added: “I just wanted to be an honourable leader. I have no regrets – I don’t believe in having regrets.
“My personal message to those who criticise me within the party and those outside the party is: I gave it my best. It’s up to you to decide how I have done”.
The politician wouldn’t comment on who he thinks will succeed him but some UUP sources believe Danny Kennedy would be a suitable replacement.
This account was first published in the print version of the Impartial Reporter
Journalist, The Impartial Reporter in Enniskillen. Northern Ireland Weekly Journalist of the Year 2013. Voted 10th most influential journalist on Twitter in UK. Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rodneyedwards