Former South Down DUP Association Chairman Speaks Out

Glyn Hanna has resigned from the DUP and will serve as an independent Unionist Councillor.

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Glyn Hanna has resigned from the DUP and will serve as an independent Unionist Councillor.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has fallen on difficult times and the media has carried much of the unfolding position of the party. A fundamental split seems to be happening within the DUP, and under the leadership of new leader Edwin Poots, the challenge to bring the party back to an even keel is huge.

The exit of Arlene Foster as the former party leader, and currently acting as First Minister, has raised many eyebrows in the Unionist community and beyond. Many political pundits are now chewing over the grist of the causes and effects of this serious political development which could ultimately lead to a collapse of Stormont if there are difficulties electing the First and Deputy Minister. When a First or Deputy Minister steps down, the other Minister too has to step aside and two new names are put in the hat.

In Northern Ireland politics, there is all too often many a slip twixt cup and lip. The next couple of weeks will be crucial for political stability and the future of the Assembly.

Down News asked Glyn Hanna to comment of his position as the former South Down DUP Association chairman and the circumstances surrounding his demise. Below if his full statement.

Cllr Glyn Hanna talks on the changes that are taking place in the DUP and reflects on the South Down DUP Association.

“I have resigned from the Democratic unionist Party and will continue as an Independent Unionsist Councillor for the Mourne’s in Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

“I joined the DUP almost 10 years ago with the encouragement of two of my friends, Jim Donaldson (father of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson), and Raymond Hanna. These two men encouraged me to become more involved in politics and eventually I stood for election in 2014 for the new super council.

“I was elected with 973 first preference votes which was a massive achievement as the outgoing DUP councillor’s vote had dropped badly (for the Mourne’s area). I set about working in the new super council in its shadow form to begin with, and there was a lot of training and inductions which I took part in to enhance my role as a councillor.

“Over the last seven years I have worked very hard for all who voted for me and for all who live in the Mournes DEA. And in the 2019 council election, I ws honoured to top the poll with almost 2000 first preference votes. I was humbled to receive such a large vote. I also stood for election at the last Westminster election in 2019 and I also received a large vote.

“I have worked hard for those who voted for me and for those who who maybe didn’t vote for me, and I have always fed back to the DUP leadership all the feedback I received from anyone. I have always done this although many times I felt it was ignored.

“In the last year I always spoke up and was often not popular for speaking the truth and putting forward the views, concerns and worries of everyone.

“I have worked for all constituents as best I could and to be honest I have often felt the burden of being the face on the ground following the numerous bad behaviours within the DUP by some members and felt ashamed of them. I believe I will be a better Councillor without the weight of the DUP on my shoulders.

“I have been the South Down DUP Association Chairman for the past five years and I along with others have rebuilt the party in South Down with a large growth membership over the years under my chairmanship and we have prospered.

“Now I have been shocked, embarrassed, and disappointed at what has happened to the DUP Leader and Deputy Leader with the vicious, nasty, disrespectful, removal of Arlene Foster as leader of my party and the way she has been treated since that point.

“I am also disgusted at what has gone on in the leadership contest and a lot of underhand antics during the election of the leader of the DUP and the way she has been treated since.

“I was a supporter of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and made no secret of it. Sir Jeffrey is a life-long friend and I believe he had the ability to lead the party. Sir Jeffrey would have openly acknowledged the glaringly obvious divide in the DUP and worke dto unite and rebuild to bring all with him. He would not have acted in the way the new leadership of Edwin Poots, Paul Givan and Ian Paisley.

“Also, in addition, the open and unashamed bullying by some in the DUP is a disgrace and it was only a matter of time before it landed on my door.

“Where everything has come off the rails for me is as a member of the Executive of the South Down Executive team. I attended the meeting to ratify the new DUP leader on 27th May, and I, along with other South Down Association executive members, decided to voice our dissatisfaction to reflect the views of Association and Constituency members who raised the issues with us over the treatment of Arlene and express our opinion not to ratify the new leader.

“My daughter Diane made a speech setting out our position and I was disgusted at remarks directed at her regarding her age and gender. I had not planned to speak but had to act at that point.

“Lord Morrow gave me a chance to speak and I did not mince my words directing them at the meeting and especially the new leader and deputy leader. I was disgusted at the behaviour of some who were opposed to a secret vote.

I witnessed bullying in that room of people who wanted a secret vote being approached by senior DUP members who spoke to them and made them take their hands down. Other then took their hands down too. I believe if there had been a secret vote the leader may not have been ratified. The fear in the room was real.

“In that meeting and after it I spoke to Edwin Poots and invited him to reach out to our members, councillors and Association and since that executive meeting nothing has happened by way of such outreach. Instead last week members of the South Down DUP Association received an email from Jim Wells saying we MUST accept the new leader and when this ended up in the media, the new leadership denied they endorsed this but they still did not reach out to the South Down Association.

“Last Saturday evening the South Down DUP Association held an AGM and without prior warning or notice Jim Wells and a group of his supporters proposed another member for chair, and following a vote, I was displaced as chair.

I accept this as democracy but the lack of prior warning, the removal of any respect for me echoed how the Poots’ team treated Arlene Foster as did the fact that neither the incumbent chair nor Jim Wells who took over the meeting from that point acknowledged me as the outgoing chairman in any form, much like Edwin’s leadership speech did not mention Sir Jeffrey. The result was that all those in South Down who supported Sir Jeffrey and spoke up over the treatment of Arlene have been removed from office and replaced by Poots/Wells supporters.

“I believe this is the beginning of a purge of anyone who spoke against the leadership so I encourage others in the DUP with decency and integrity to consider their position.”

“At least seven members from the South Down DUP Association have left or told me they will be leaving with many more considering their positions.

“I resigned from the DUP on Monday morning 7th June 2021 and I will sit as an Independent Unionist Councillor on Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

“To date I have received over 5000 messages of support for me as a councillor and my daughter Diane too has received many messages of support.”