Election Diary: Valentine’s Day victor quits, predicting Nesbitt’s demise

Carol Black was welcomed to Stormont with a bunch of UUP flowers in 2008. She is pictured with Reg Empey and Basil McCrea. 'Picture by Brian Little
Carol Black was welcomed to Stormont with a bunch of UUP flowers in 2008. She is pictured with Reg Empey and Basil McCrea. 'Picture by Brian Little
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Having been elected nine years ago on Valentine’s Day in a by-election which was the catalyst for Ian Paisley’s removal as DUP leader, yesterday Carol Black quit the Ulster Unionist Party predicting that leader Mike Nesbitt may not long be in that position.

Councillor Black was first elected in February 2008 on the back of transfers from the TUV which was facing its first electoral test and alarmed the DUP with its strong showing in that Dromore by-election.

Yesterday, Ms Black quit the UUP with a broadside at Mr Nesbitt for saying that he would be transferring his vote to the SDLP immediately after voting for the UUP.

Speaking of Mr Nesbitt’s comments, she said: “I think it’s a disgrace and the ethos of the party has been destroyed. We are unionists and we should not be ashamed of being unionist; we are unionists and Protestants and Presbyterians, Methodist, Church of Ireland or whatever.”

She added: “I’m not saying we can’t do business with our Catholic neighbours – absolutely not – we need partnership with each other.”

Ms Black said that “in the past few months Mike has been a wishy-washy leader. I’m not sure what he actually stands for anymore. I think it’s a stage performance. It’s well rehearsed; it’s an act ... there’s just something not right there.

“Probably he’s a very nice person. I’ve never actually sat down and spoken to him.”

She expressed frustration that Jenny Palmer – who joined from the DUP and was chosen as an MLA candidate in Lagan Valley – hadn’t “earned” that position and added that already there are internal moves to remove Mr Nesbitt as leader: “All it takes is for Nesbitt to have a really bad election and he’s out.”

Ms Black said that she would not be joining another party, saying: “I’m not going to be dictated to by anyone any more”.

Ms Black’s UUP council colleague Alderman Jim Speers said he was “disappointed, but not surprised”. He said that the UUP had “a vision of unionism that embraces everyone ... we are open to all faiths and none”.

First leaders’ TV debate

The first televised leaders’ debate of the campaign will take place tomorrow.

UTV’s leaders’ debate will be pre-recorded ‘as live’ at Havelock House in the afternoon before being broadcast in prime time at 9pm that night.

The debate will feature the five biggest parties’ leaders –the DUP’s Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, the UUP’s Mike Nesbitt and Alliance’s Naomi Long.

The BBC’s leaders’ debate, chaired by Noel Thompson in front of a studio audience, will be go out live on February 28 – just two days before the election.#

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