ONE of Coleraine's most popular politicians described his decision to resign from the Ulster Unionist Party as "one of the saddest days of his life".
David McClarty MLA, who is the party's only MLA in East Londonderry, blamed opponents at constituency level for his resignation.
Back in September, Mr McClarty - Deputy Speaker at Stormont - was prevented from defending his seat in May's Assembly elections, when he was de-selected by party members inEast Londonderry.
On Monday he said his treatment by his party locally had caused him great sadness. During a BBC radio interview, the former Coleraine mayor said he did not have 'an issue with the party generally', but said he had a 'difficulty' with two or three individuals who, he claimed, 'were determined' to have him de-selected.
He referred to a message, that he claimed been mistakenly left on his phone. The caller had claimed that the party would not move forward with him still as an MLA.
"It was not an easy decision and I still am very sad that it has come to this," said Mr McClarty.
"But in many ways those two or three individuals who have brought this about have forced me away from the party.
"The party has left me rather than me the party.
"I hold no ill feeling towards the party generally, but if I am going to work with the party, I have to be able to do it locally too," he said.
After over 20 years as a Coleraine councillor, Mr McClarty will retain his seat as an Independent member. He will remain in Stormont until May.
When asked if he would consider joining another party or standing in the Assembly elections as an independent candidate - he said he would consider things over the next few weeks, and at the moment "nothing has been ruled in, and nothing has been ruled out".
Mr McClarty said he had received a positive reaction from people in his constituency who, he said, were shocked at the decision to drop him as a party candidate.
"Since the news of the de-selection I have had nothing but tremendous support. "I hoped that under a new leadership - and I don't blame the new leadership - we were going places."
Mr McClarty has been with the UUP since 1989 and held an Assembly seat since