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John McCallister (born 20 February 1972) is a Northern Irish Unionist politician. In 2007, he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly as an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) member for South Down. On 14 February 2013, McCallister announced that he had resigned from the UUP due to its decision to engage in an electoral pact with the Democratic Unionist Party.[1] He was a co-founder of the NI21 party with fellow ex-UUP member Basil McCrea but resigned the following year following disputes with McCrea. He re-contested his seat as an Independent at the 2016 election but lost his seat, receiving just 2.8% of the vote.

John McCallister
John McCallister MLA.jpg
Deputy Leader of NI21
In office
6 June 2013 – 3 July 2014
LeaderBasil McCrea
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byJohnny McCarthy
Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
In office
27 October 2010 – 1 October 2012
LeaderTom Elliot
Mike Nesbitt
Preceded byDanny Kennedy
Succeeded byVacant
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for South Down
In office
7 March 2007 – 7 May 2016
Preceded byDermot Nesbitt
Succeeded byHarold McKee
Personal details
Born (1972-02-20) 20 February 1972 (age 47)
Newry, Northern Ireland
Political partyIndependent
Ulster Unionist (before 2013)
NI21 (2013–14)
Spouse(s)Jane McCallister

Political careerEdit

A native of Rathfriland, John McCallister has had a strong interest in agriculture and environmental issues in the community and voluntary sector and has been assigned to serve on the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Committee for Regional Development. He has been a member of the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) since 1984 and, in 2003–05, served as YFCU president.

McCallister introduced the Bill which became the Caravans Act (Northern Ireland), 2011 to give legal protection to holiday-makers who stay in caravans and to people who live permanently in park homes. The Bill passed the Assembly in February 2011,[2] and received Royal Assent on 16 March; the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly congratulated him on being the first person to guide a Private Member's Bill onto the statute book in Northern Ireland since 1931.[3]

UUP deputy leaderEdit

Following the election of Tom Elliott as UUP leader, McCallister was appointed the Party's deputy leader.[4] The following year the UUP Whip Fred Cobain lost his seat in the Assembly and McCallister was chosen to replace him.[5]

After attending a Sinn Féin conference in November 2011 in Newry he issued an apology for "unionist failings" in the past. Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) leader and prominent unionist activist Willie Frazer stated that people in the unionist community were "appalled" by McCallister's remarks.[6]

In March 2012 he performed an emergency delivery of a baby on his wife when they were unable to reach the hospital on time.[7]

He has stated the importance of his party reaching out to Catholic voters. In contrast with some previous Unionist leaders he would happily support his local GAA team and would have no opposition to Gay Pride marches.[8]

After being called the "leader of the opposition" by culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín, McCallister said, "If I win the leadership I think that title could quickly catch on. It has a ring to it."[9]

UUP leadership election of March 2012Edit

McCallister fought the UUP leadership in March 2012 losing to Mike Nesbitt by 129 votes to 536.

McCallister was sacked by Mike Nesbitt as UUP deputy leader on 1 October 2012 for making a speech criticising unionist unity, which was seen by Nesbitt as an attack on his leadership.[10]

Resignation from the UUP and NI21Edit

On 14 February 2013, McCallister announced that he had resigned from the UUP in reaction to the decision to field a unionist unity candidate in the Mid-Ulster by-election. He declared that he would sit as an Independent Unionist in the Assembly.[1] In an interview the following day Basil McCrea, who had also resigned from the UUP, suggested that he and McCallister were preparing to launch a new moderate unionist party.[11]

The new party, NI21 was launched in June 2013. McCallister became deputy leader with McCrea as leader. Two days before the 2014 European and local elections in which the party performed poorly, NI21 announced it would be changing from Designated Unionist to Designated Other in the Northern Ireland Assembly. McCallister criticised the move, which he labelled "crazy" and evidence of how "dysfunctional" NI21 had become. McCallister alleged the decision had been made without proper consultation[12] McCrea then demanded an explanation from McCallister for his comments and stated the executive would discuss the comments.[13]

In July 2014 amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour by McCrea, McCallister resigned to resume sitting in the Northern Ireland Assembly as an independent.[14] He lost his seat in the 2016 election.

Fraud allegationsEdit

In June 2015 the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided McCallister's home over allegations relating to the misuse of public funds[15] A number of items including a computer were seized and police referred the case to the Public Prosecution Service.


  1. ^ a b "John McCallister resigns from the UUP". BBC. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Caravan 'rights' bill is passed at Stormont". BBC News. 16 February 2011.
  3. ^ Official Report Archived 19 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Northern Ireland), 21 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Sir Reg Empey steps down as minister in UUP reshuffle". BBC News. 27 October 2010.
  5. ^ "John McCallister is the new Ulster Unionist Chief Whip replacing Fred Cobain. Hopes to still be deputy leader." BBC
  6. ^ Willie Frazer furious over UUP deputy's apology for Unionist failings Belfast Telegraph 21 November 2011
  7. ^ Special Deliver for UUP Candidate[dead link]
  8. ^ "UUP needs to reach out to Catholics"-McCallister Belfast Telegraph 29 March 2012
  9. ^ Clarke, Liam. "Belfast Telegraph – John McCallister: Man who aims to be leader of the opposition". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  10. ^ McCallister sacked as UUP deputy leader over unionist unity speech BBC News 1 October 2012
  11. ^ "Basil McCrea 'likely to form new party' to challenge DUP and UUP". BBC. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Gordon, Gareth (3 July 2014). "John McCallister confirms NI21 exit". BBC News.
  15. ^

External linksEdit

Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Dermot Nesbitt
MLA for South Down
Succeeded by
Harold McKee
Preceded by
Danny Kennedy
Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Preceded by
Fred Cobain
Chief Whip of the Ulster Unionist Party
Succeeded by
Robin Swann
New political party Deputy Leader of NI21
Succeeded by
Johnny McCarthy