After weeks of infighting, turmoil and leaks, speculation is growing that the leadership of NI21 has agreed a temporary truce.

 

We have heard that in a meeting this week, an agreement was reached between members of the executive and deputy leader John McCallister to halt the almost endless stream of leaks and interviews with the press that have so publicly aired the divisions within the party.

 

The split within the party was first publicly highlighted when deputy leader John McCallister gave an interview to the Newsletter lambasting the party’s decision to re-designate from Unionist to Other as as “crazy” just before the local and european elections on the 22nd of May. The following day the leader of the party Basil McCrea gave an interview on the Nolan show expressing his disappointment at McCallister’s decision to go public with his dissatisfaction.

 

Following this, allegations began to surface accusing McCrea of acting inappropriately towards members of staff, including accusations of sexual misconduct. McCrea claimed that these allegations were false in a document that was leaked to this website and has maintained that he has acted appropriately at all times. McCallister claimed that the decision to designate as other was an attempt to force him to leave the party and thus derail an investigation by the company Carecall that McCallister had initiated on behalf of the party into these allegations.

 

It is this investigation by Carecall that has been the key point of contention in the party in recent weeks. A letter from the executive sent on the 15th of May and leaked to showed that the executive was not happy in bringing in Carecall when they had about the allegations by McCallister. Another email dated the 22nd May, has been shown to this website however, that appears to show that at least one member of the previous executive had actually agreed to bringing Carecall in to talk to staff members. This email adds further confusion to what is already a particularly confusing period.

 

“This was something the executive denied”

Even with the resignation of the entire original executive and the appointment of a new one the confusion, fighting and leaking over the Carecall report did not end. McCallister claimed that the newly appointed executive and more specifically the chair Jayne Howson, had blocked any further investigation by Carecall after the organisation had asked her for permission to continue. This was something the executive denied in a statement published again on Vixens With Convictions here on the 16th of June.

 

Another leak, this time to Slugger O’Toole showed a confidential letter from Carecall to McCallister and Howson that appeared to confirm that McCallister had been correct in saying that the investigation had been stopped because of the fact that the chair Howson had not agreed that it should continue. However, it should be noted that the exact timeline of these events remains sketchy and we expect further clarity in the coming weeks.

 

Saying it has been a difficult time for the party is to nominate yourself for the award for understatement of the century, win it, and then make an oscar winning biopic about your experiences as the world’s greatest understatement maker.

 

“The last few weeks have been a public case study in a party at war with itself”

The party has been damaged, perhaps irreparably in the eyes of the electorate, and the very idea of trust existing between its members seems almost impossible. The last few weeks have been a public case study in a party at war with itself. Yet if news of a public cessation of hostilities between McCallister and the Party executive are true, what does this mean for them?

 

Both appear to have agreed to a moratorium on talking to the press in order to allow the concerns raised by staff members to be dealt with in a less public and hopefully less stressful way for those involved.

 

Both McCallister and the Executive, however, should remain committed to dealing with the issues raised and not allow anything to deter them from investigating any and all allegations fully for the sake of the these staff members.

 

Official clarification is yet to be forthcoming and at the moment there is still more confusion than clarity for the members of the party and the electorate who supported them. Has the good ship NI21 finally patched it’s leaky hull, or is this just the eye of the storm?

 

Jason Ashford |

 

Jason Ashford

Jason Ashford

Jason Ashford is the co-founder of Off The Record NI. He writes about Northern Ireland politics, economics and local issues | Find Jason on Twitter @jasonashford89 | Contact Jason by email via ashfordj2@gmail.com

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