Nesbitt hits back at party criticism

editorial image

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has hit back at two recently resigned Ulster Unionist members for ‘attacking’ the party on Friday.

John McCallister and Basil McCrea announced within 24 hours of each other, that they were to quit the party over the choosing of a unionist unity candidate to stand in the Mid Ulster by-election.

Both men were critical of their former party, saying they did not agree with the political path it was taking in aligning with the DUP in the Mid Ulster constituency area.

But in response to both McCrea and McCallister, Mike Nesbitt on Friday issued a strongly worded statement saying the criticisms are “a matter of huge regret”.

He said: “With regard to comments made by John McCallister, if he is resigning on principle, why did he not resign over the selection of an agreed candidate in Rodney Connor in Fermanagh & South Tyrone? If he was unhappy with policies, why when I gave him the opportunity 11 months ago to shape policy via a Constitutional Commission did he not bother?

“I reject Basil’s claim that in my Leadership campaign I advocated “no big idea”. What I said was there was no quick fix and there was no “big idea” beyond a long hard slog on the ground. Hard work was the big idea.

“Re Basil’s claim that there are no policies, he appears to have completely missed my 2012 Conference speech in which a wide range of polices were outlined. Basil also claimed there was no forum to discuss and debate policy and direction yet was the only MLA not to attend the last “away day” which is the forum for such debate and discussion.

“The Party reviewed key policies in 2012 and neither John nor Basil attended internal meetings or contributed in any meaningful way. Indeed John attended more Northern Ireland Conservative events over that period than he attended Ulster Unionist reviews.”

Despite the latest UUP departures Mr Nesbitt said he is convinced the future of the UUP is strong.

“My vision remains for a revitalised, pluralist, non-sectarian progressive political party remains undimmed.,” he said. “That party is the Ulster Unionist Party.”

For comprehensive coverage and analysis see Saturday’s News Letter and Follow the News Letter on Twitter.