2 councillors have tonight left the DUP and pledged their support for the Conservative and Unionist candidate in Thursday's poll.
Councillor Harry Greenaway (Dungannon & South Tyrone) and Councillor Deirdre Nelson (Ballymena) are giving their support to Jim Nicholson.
Councillor Greenaway will also be joining the UUP whereas Councillor Deirdre Nelson is joining the Conservatives.
The battle to build an inclusive and truly UK Unionism in Northern Ireland will not be won overnight, but it is heartening to see the project being given such a boost less than 4 days away from polling day.
Harry Greenaway said:
"It is never easy to leave a party you have belonged to and been a public representative for. But I have been increasingly unhappy and disillusioned with the path taken by the DUP. I think they have been less than honest with the electorate and I'm not convinced that the so-called 'Fairer Deal' is anything of the sort.
"I have been encouraged by the UUP's efforts to build a genuine unionism for the people of Northern Ireland, something I regard as much more beneficial to unionism than the carve-up which the DUP has concluded with Sinn Fein.
"I will be supporting Jim Nicholson on June 4 and would encourage all those who believe in a wider, deeper, broader Union to do the same."
Cllr Nelson said,
"As of today, I have resigned from the Democratic Unionist Party. I have been unhappy with the direction the Party has taken since the loss of Dr Paisley as leader.
I have watched, with interest, the recent moves by the Conservative Party to begin to steer Northern Ireland away from sectarian politics into normal UK politics and to ensure that Northern Ireland fulfils her role as an integral and necessary part of the United Kingdom, in which all traditions are welcomed.
This coupled with the recent visit by David Cameron, has persuaded me that I wish to be an active and valued member of the Conservatives. And therefore I am announcing that with effect from today I will sit as a Conservative councillor on Ballymena Council.
I will of course, continue to serve my constituents to the best of my ability and in time I trust that they will see the wisdom of my decision."
Cllr Nelson said about the forthcoming European Union election:
"I am delighted to give my full support to Jim Nicholson MEP as our Conservatives and Unionists candidate this Thursday. Jim’s experience will be vital in the next European Parliament and, as part of one of the biggest national delegations, he will ensure that Northern Ireland’s voice is heard as never before.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson MP said:
"I am delighted at the news that Deirdre has decided to join the Conservatives. Deirdre has worked incredibly hard for her constituents over the past four years and we are pleased to welcome her to our Party. This news shows that the mood for change is strong right across the United Kingdom."
Eric Pickles MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, said,
"I am delighted to have such a sensible person join the Conservatives. It is clear that the future of Northern Ireland is more secure with a centre right party that seeks to represent the whole of the UK at every level."
Tim Lewis, Chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland said,
"The news of Deirdre’s defection so close to Thursday’s elections will come as a body blow to the DUP. Coupled with the defection of Harry Greenaway to the UUP, today’s news embodies the great strides we, as Conservatives and Unionists, have made over the last few months"