David Ford said: “Over the weekend after the Assembly election, I spoke to both Dr Kieran Deeny and Brian Wilson. I invited them to meet with the enlarged Alliance Assembly Party on Monday morning, 12 March. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how we, as the nine representatives of the anti-sectarian centre ground, could co-operate in the Assembly.
“Both Kieran and Brian agreed to meet the Alliance MLAs. At the meeting, we agreed that we would form a united group in the Assembly and decided on the name ‘United Community Group’. This was announced to the media as we entered the Assembly chamber on Tuesday 13 March, when we each individually gave our designation as ‘United Community’.
“Every other MLA, including Dawn Purvis, was clearly either a Unionist or a Nationalist. At no time was there any suggestion from any of us that Ms Purvis – or any other MLA – would be invited to join the Group.
“I am at a loss to understand why Reg Empey is making this false and damaging accusation, apart from embarrassment at the links between his own party and those linked to Loyalist terrorism.”