Last night the Vixens hosted a statement from the NI21 Executive about the recent allegations and just who stopped the Carecall investigation. Tonight the party deputy leader, John McCallister speaks to Slugger responding to what he believes is an inaccurate statement from the party executive and paints a bleak picture of his future in the party, alongside what he believes is the inevitable death of the party.
I began the interview by asking him to respond to the statement that no formal complaint had been received by the executive and that he had ignored legal advice received by the party;
John argued that the charge that no complaint was ever brought before the party executive just doesn’t wash, as he had informed the former executive about a complaint that had been made to him and that some action would need to be taken. He told that me that the party does not have the internal machinery or procedures to deal with complaints such as this and that ensuring an independent investigation was conducted was paramount to ensure that a duty of care to both sides was properly delivered. He further repudiates the notion that he was off on some sort of solo run, telling me that he had brought in Carecall with the agreement of both Basil McCrea and the former executive and had consulted with both throughout the first two weeks within May. Moreover, he notes that in his dialogue with Carecall he was actually informed that he was following the appropriate course of action in offering these services to the complainant, despite what the latest statement from the party executive has said.
Who stopped the investigation then?
John told me that it is his understanding that while he had commissioned Carecall as the deputy leader; the organisation sought permission to continue its investigation from the new executive but that was not forthcoming. The South Down MLA made it clear that he did not halt the investigation as he doesn’t have the power to do so and expressed his regret that he was unable to start it again. John believes that
everything from the start of this process has been about stopping this investigation, rushing out and getting legal advice has been about trying to stop it and saying ah, well look, we cannot do this.
I moved on to the part of the statement which talked about the damage on the party election performance and John’s role in that. Unsurprisingly, McCallister doesn’t believe that his actions in the days leading up to polling day did any significant damage to the party’s prospects and dismissed the ‘naivety’ of those who believed that NI21 were going to sweep the boards and achieve nearly 50 councillors.
From what John was telling me, I was curious to know just what future he had with NI21?
As you know David I used to farm, if this was a cow you’d be getting it put down. This has been the most toxic and poisonous experience of my entire life. It has made my experience in another political party look like a Sunday school outing…I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have a long term future with NI21. They don’t want me in the party and I don’t want to be in the party for much longer.
Aside from his own future, John doesn’t believe that NI21 deserves to be saved at this point as he argues it has become so sidetracked from its original purpose and become so mired in this situation that it makes a future for it impossible. For John, at this point, it is simply about sticking it out to ensure that some form of independent investigation for members of staff takes place. At this point John cannot see a possible working relationship with the current executive, of which he is a member, who he criticizes for publishing a statement without informing him about it, or giving him a chance to respond.
After everything that has gone on, did he regret setting up NI21?
I regret doing it with Basil; yes…The absolute tragedy of this…Unionism is coalescing around a much harder right agenda, Nationalism/Republicanism, the same. It was ripe for the picking for a moderate pro union, pro UK, centre-right party to come with a sensible message about a Northern Irish identity…we lost focus on that, we stopped doing politics.
My understanding is that more documentation will come to light in the days ahead. Watch this space as the implosion of a party just one year old continues in full public gaze.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs