Problems grow for UUP

The PSNI police are investigating the financial affairs of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), it has emerged.

They have been called in by the Electoral Commission in the North Ireland which has now demanded more information and evidence from party chiefs about the party’s assets.

In a statement the Commission said it had referred the matter to the police after evidence emerged that funds worth some 50,000 pounds sterling may not have been properly declared by Reg Empey`s party.

The inquiry is believed to be focused on whether any donations during the 1990s were kept away from party auditors.

One bank account was brought to the Commission’s attention by a former UUP treasurer. A second emerged during follow up inquiries.

Meanwhile, a councillor has resigned from the party in protest at its decision to form an Assembly alliance with David Ervine, a representative of the paramilitary UVF.

The UUP allowed Mr Ervine to join its Assembly group last month to ensure a unionist majority on any future power-sharing Executive.

The party has been widely criticised as a result of the move as the UVF is not on ceasefire and its members have continued to engage in acts of serious violence, including the recent attempted murder of former UVF leader Mark Haddock.

UUP councillor Peter Bowles, who was regarded as one of the party’s brightest young hopes, has now defected to the Conservatives in protest at the move.

He said he entered politics to improve people’s lives, not to gain an extra seat on the Executive.

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