Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he turned down an offer to re-join the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) last year.
He was responding to reports by The Nolan Show that he had held talks with UUP leader Doug Beattie after losing the DUP leadership election in May.
Sir Jeffrey was narrowly beaten in a leadership contest by Edwin Poots.
But Mr Poots held the top job for just 21 days and, by the end of June, Sir Jeffrey was party leader.
Now fresh questions are being raised about whether he had, at one point, considered moving back to the party he quit in 2003.
In a statement to the Nolan Show, Sir Jeffrey claimed he had been approached by the Ulster Unionists – but said he respectfully declined the offer.
He also said any of his discussions with Mr Beattie had focused on the future of unionism and closer cooperation.
It is not clear when the two men met or how far any conversations may have got.
In a tweet on Wednesday night, Sir Jeffrey said the “portrayal” he had sought to re-join his old party was “nonsense”.
“I never had any such intentions or plans,” he wrote.
“At that time, I was approached, and it was made clear I would be welcome in the UUP but I respectfully declined.”
The UUP said in a statement: “The DUP are mourning the terrible loss of their much beloved colleague Christopher Stalford.
“We will not be making any comment.”
During a three-week period last year, there was a great sense of disillusionment within the party – we knew that tensions were simmering behind the scenes.
Those wounds were laid bare in a pretty graphic way; first of all following the ousting of Arlene Foster by party MLAs and the ousting of Edwin Poots as leader, by the party officers.
There was that three-week period where Edwin Poots served as leader and there were many within the party who were questioning their future position.
We have Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s account of what happened in that engagement, but we do not have an account from the other unionist leader, Doug Beattie about what happened and we may well get to see or hear that next week.
Jeffrey Donaldson is clear in his mind that he’s simply going to dust himself down and try to move on.
It’s difficult to assess how it’s going to play out within the party and among the electorate – we are still 70 days away from polling day and a lot is going to pop up on the political radar.
It’s something the party’s political opponents might cash in on in the run up to the election.
Those within the party will be thinking “we do not want to revisit these troubled times within the party”.
Their focus is very much on looking at survival now because they know that a tricky election is coming down the track.
They will not want to reopen old wounds by picking over the wreckage of what happened in April and May last year.
The Lagan Valley MP left the UUP in 2003 along with Arlene Foster, having been a vocal critic of leader David Trimble and the Good Friday Agreement.
He plans to run in Lagan Valley in the May Stormont election, which will allow him to become first minister if his party returns a majority.