Lisburn and Castlereagh City Councillors, Jenny and John Palmer, have said they are moving forward and taking time to consider their options following their resignations from the DUP.
Mrs Palmer and her husband resigned from the party this week and their new ‘Independent’ status has cost the DUP its majority on the council.
A visibly upset Mrs Palmer spoke to the Star this week about the four years of “hell” she has suffered after she refused to change her vote on the Housing Board following what she said was undue pressure from DSD Special Advisor Stephen Brimstone.
The local councillor spoke out on a BBC Spotlight programme two years ago about the incident that happened two years previously. At the time the party accused her of going to the media rather than dealing with concerns internally.
However, Mrs Palmer insists she went to the party after she was approached by the BBC and was “laughed at” by party colleagues over the matter.
She continued: “I went internally at first and they didn’t help or protect me. They laughed at me and said the party would never ask me to do anything immoral. But they did and they need to deal with that.
“I had to look at myself in the mirror and look at my family and decide what to do for the best. It has been hell but I would do it again.”
Mrs Palmer was highly critical of DUP leader Peter Robinson and said that without strong leadership the party would “disintegrate.”
“Peter should have gone,” said Mrs Palmer. “He is a disgrace. He has never shown any leadership. If you don’t have true leadership, your party is going to disintegrate.
“We believed the party would do what was right, but they didn’t.”
Mrs Palmer believes the situation would not have arisen under the leadership of Dr Paisley. “At a function in Lisburn Dr Paisley and his wife called me over and both said they were really sorry and that I was in their prayers for the way the party had dealt with this,” she explained. “He put his hand on my shoulder and told me ‘Keep the faith sister’.”
Indeed, it was her faith that got her through those dark days.
“Prayer has got me through,” she said. “I prayed every single day. Sometimes there was no-one I could speak to because I didn’t want to upset the family and John was already dealing with his cancer diagnosis.
“Those were the days I had many conversations with my God, in the car or wherever I was, to try to get through all of this and to make myself strong and it has made me stronger.”
Mrs Palmer and her family have been overwhelmed by the support from people both in Lisburn and throughout Northern Ireland. “I have had thousands of messages of support on social media, messages, emails and phone calls,” continued Mrs Palmer. “I intend to respond to each one individually but it may take me some time.”
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has supported Mrs Palmer throughout her ordeal, including attempting to broker a way forward and secure an apology for the Lisburn Councillor. “It is a very sad day for the DUP in Lagan Valley and we have lost two members who have made a very valued and significant contribution to the work of our team in the city of Lisburn,” said Mr Donaldson. “From the outset I have sought to support Jenny through what has been a very difficult time for her and I am very disappointed that it has come to this.
“Having been through a resignation situation myself in the past, I can understand how difficult this will have been for both jenny and John and they are very much in my thoughts and prayers at this time.
“I wish them both well for the future and I look forward to working with them as local representatives for the good of our city.”
“I believe there is a future for us in politics and given the right support mechanism, we soul achieve that future. Politics is something we are both very passionate about and it is not something we ever wanted to walk away from.”