NI21 chief Basil McCrea signals end of political career

NI21 leader Basil McCrea is quitting Stormont after becoming disillusioned with politics in Northern Ireland.

The Lagan Valley MLA has confirmed he will not be contesting the Assembly election on May 5th and says he will pursue a career in business or another area of public life. The move comes after a report earlier this month from Assembly standards commissioner Douglas Bain dismissed 12 complaints against Mr McCrea involving allegations of inappropriate behaviour, sexual misconduct and voyeurism.

At the time the 56-year-old claimed he had been the victim of a criminal conspiracy to force his resignation, a matter now being considered by the PSNI.

The report’s findings were endorsed by the Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges, but concerns were raised over how Mr McCrea treated his staff on occasion. The committee said his behaviour occasionally fell below the standards it would encourage. Mr McCrea set up NI21 three years ago with South Down MLA John McCallister after they left the Ulster Unionist Party.

However, the fledgling party imploded and the men’s professional relationship and friendship ended on the eve of the European election in May 2014 following a row over whether the party should designate itself as unionist. Mr McCallister now sits at Stormont as an independent unionist MLA.

Last month NI21’s only local council representative Johnny McCarthy, who replaced Mr McCallister as NI21 deputy leader, revealed he was leaving the party to join the SDLP. Only two weeks ago Mr McCrea said he would fight for his political career but in a newspaper interview on Tuesday he indicated a change of heart.

“Family members were upset by the reality of politics in Northern Ireland. Personally, I can take the rough with the smooth, but . . . you have to take on board what family and friends are feeling,” said Mr McCrea.

“There’s no doubt the pressure . . . did have an effect on my health, my relationships and my general wellbeing.”

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