An Ulster Unionist MLA who joined the party after quitting the DUP after claiming she had been bullied has issued an extraordinary appeal to the “good, honest people” in her old party to break ranks over the RHI scandal.
UUP MLA Jenny Palmer, who in 2015 said she had been ordered by a DUP special adviser to change the way she intended to vote at a Housing Executive Board meeting, penned an open letter to DUP members appealing for them to “go against the juggernaut of the party apparatus” and speak up about the RHI scandal.
Mrs Palmer’s letter is as follows: “Friends,
“I do mean that, friends. You will know that I hold some of you very close to my heart, despite everything that has gone on in the past. I know that there are people in the party who are good, honest people. I am making this appeal to you.
“Ask yourself, and answer honestly, how many times have you been told that someone will vote for you in spite of your political party? How many times have you had an awkward conversation with a voter or constituent, who said ‘I know you, I like you. I don’t like the DUP’.
“I know, because I used to get the same. I used to get people telling me that while they valued the contribution I made to public life, they were horrified by the behaviour of the upper echelons of the DUP.
“Ask yourself another question; how many more scandals? You are a good person, and I know it, but as the famous quote says, ‘all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.
“I know that many of you are uneasy sharing power with Sinn Fein, but that is part and parcel of how government must be done here in reality. But the scandals aren’t.
“You don’t have to put up with what lurks in the dark core of the DUP. You don’t have to pretend not to notice the Red Sky scandal, the SIF mismanagement or the RHI debacle. You don’t have to be placated with the lukewarm (or even hostile!) responses from SPADs when you dare to question the leadership in private.
“More importantly, you have a responsibility. If you stay silent, you give your implicit consent for the people responsible to get away this this. You alone at this moment have the power to say to those people ‘no’. The voters will have their chance in a few years, if not sooner, but at this moment in time, almost no pressure from opposition or the media will have the same impact as you standing up and saying to the party ‘no more’.
“I know, because I did it. I know what power even a councillor can have by just publicly saying ‘this is wrong’.
“I understand your reluctance. I know how terrifying it is to go against the juggernaut of the party apparatus. That deep, sleep-preventing fear of ‘what if I do it’. That fear that you’ll lose friends, you’ll lose income, you might even lose your career. I know, because I went through it.
“I won’t lie to you, it might happen. I lost friends. I lost income. It didn’t end my career, because I have the backing of the voters and my new party, but there were no guarantees. But I had to do it, even if my crusade was a lonely one. It was the right thing to do then, and you know that it is the right thing to do now.
“More importantly, if even a few of you speak up, the secret will be out. It will be revealed that the Emperor (or empress, as the case may be) has no clothes. The party has you wrapped in a fear that only you feel this way, that this only worries you. That is a lie, and if you speak to your colleagues, you’ll find that to be true. Only you have the power to shine a light on the dark corners of the DUP.
“And, goodness forbid, if you do find yourself punished for your honesty, you won’t be alone. You might find you have friends in surprising places. I know that I did.
“I want to close with a few words the late Dr Paisley shared with me when I was going through my own purgatory.
“He said, ‘keep the faith Jenny’.
“If you know that what is happening is wrong, speak up. If they dare to try to attack you for speaking the truth, I believe that you will be rewarded as I have been.