MIKE Nesbitt says he has attended several GAA matches and helped organise emblems for Gay Pride.
When asked where he stood on the issues, given that Mr Elliott’s refusal to attend either had led to so much debate, Mr Nesbitt said: “Would I go to a GAA match again? I went to my first GAA match in the 1979-1980 season, I was a sports reporter at the BBC.
“As a public relations consultant, I helped to broker a deal between Ulster Bank and the Down county, I’ve been to three all-Ireland finals, I’m going to a hurling match in Belfast before the season’s out, I’m also at Ravenhill for Ulster-Leinster and I’m hoping to go to Shamrock Park for an Irish League soccer match.
“In 1991 I was public relations consultant for Belfast 1991 which was a year-long festival in 1991 for the city of Belfast.
“I had a small hand in helping with banners and flags and stuff so I was associated with Gay Pride in 1991.”
Responding to questions over his apparent inexperience of being a politician, he said: “You can cut it two ways – as an elected politician with an office you can say ‘Well, you haven’t been around’. You can cut it both ways.
“I’m forward-looking and I am absolutely convinced that we can come out with better policies better communicated and that we can have a better organisation.”
When questioned as to whether he would support or oppose closer links between the DUP and UUP, Mr Nesbitt said: “I’m only interested in internal relationships at this moment.”
He added: “As for unionist unity, I have no objection to a debate on what that means, but after so many years as a broadcast journalist, interviewing senior DUP figures, and my more recent experience of fielding their invective in the Assembly chamber, I am entirely sceptical about what would motivate them to call for co-operation beyond self-interest.”
When questioned on whether he would take part in co-operation talks with the DUP similar to those engaged in by David McNarry, Mr Nesbitt said: “Well, I don’t really know what happened there. And I don’t mean this as a criticism of Tom but it seems to me that what happened was that perfectly normal, low-level political activity which by necessity is private became portrayed as secret.”
Asked whether, if he becomes leader, he could see any circumstances in which Mr McNarry returns to the UUP Assembly group, Mr Nesbitt said: “As I understand it, disciplinary action is live so it is effectively sub judice.”