Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 15:53 UK

Who is Jim Allister?

By Martina Purdy
BBC NI political correspondent

Jim Allister
TUV candidate Jim Allister

It looked like a masterstroke when Peter Robinson brought Jim Allister out of self-imposed political exile to contest the European election for the DUP in 2004.

Even more so when he topped the poll, exceeding even Ian Paisley's vote.

After all, the younger DUP generation may not have remembered him but Mr Robinson did.

This was one the DUP had made earlier - a political heavyweight whose route to the top was blocked when the party entered an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionists, which prevented him fighting the East Antrim seat in the General Election of 1987.

But just as he did in 1987 Mr Allister was to quit the DUP again in 2007, this time over his dislike of power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

Twenty years on, however, one crucial part of history did not repeat itself - this time Mr Allister did not quit politics and return to his other job at the Bar.

To the DUP's great chagrin he held onto the European seat and formed a new party, the Traditional Unionist Voice, as a vehicle to drive his opposition to the Stormont Executive in general and the DUP's involvement in particular.

A new European Parliament will be drawn up in June
A new European Parliament will be drawn up in June

The more the DUP wishes Jim Allister away the more he seems determined to haunt them.

His office in East Belfast is a stone's throw from the DUP headquarters.

From it, he has launched a series of attacks on his former party - some of which have landed.

But undoubtedly his finest moment, until now, came in the Dromore council by-election in February last year when his party made its electoral debut gathering 739 votes and effectively depriving the DUP of the seat.

"It's an unhappy Valentine's Day for the Chuckle Brothers," he boasted.

His victory made all the sweeter by the fact that the DUP top brass heard the bad news whilst in Dublin for a meeting of the British Irish Council.

TUV support

It increased the DUP's nervousness and emboldened their now former MEP who, in a series of speeches, media appearances and press releases has continued to make outspoken attacks on the party.

The TUV's first party conference drew a sizeable crowd but relatively few DUP elected representatives have defected.

The European election was the really big test of TUV support and despite losing his seat, he has badly damaged the DUP.

Mr Allister billed himself as the only candidate who did not endorse "terrorists in government."

He was eliminated at the second stage with a total of 70,481 votes but indicated he would stand in North Antrim in the next general election.

Mr Allister said he had attained 30% of the unionist vote, adding: "That is a remarkable achievement and shows the depth of feeling that there is among many unionists who refuse to be rolled over in the era of Sinn Fein rule."

The DUP's first preference vote fell from 32% in 2004, to 18.2% in 2009, with most of the votes appearing to go to Mr Allister.



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