Robbie Butler was speaking after a well-received party conference at the weekend, marked by a rousing speech from leader Doug Beattie and a powerful address from Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, who came to the party from the PUP in June.
Asked if he had any idea before the conference on Saturday how well the speakers would be received, Mr Butler, the party’s chief whip who also spoke at the event, said: “Given the continued support and interest in our re-energised brand of confident inclusive unionism we knew that the speakers would resonate with our conference delegates.”
He said the takeaway message was that “the Ulster Unionist Party are back”, adding: “We are committed to contesting for the First Minister post and believe that the electorate are tuning back in.”
One of those speakers who earned a lot of praise was Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston.
Of the North Belfast candidate, Mr Butler said: “Julie-Anne gave a very personal and powerful speech. Her addition to the team is an important one. Her energy and passion for her community is revitalising for us in North Belfast and she’s an enthusiastic advocate of confident unionism.
“I was struck by the speeches from candidates who are contesting assembly constituencies for the first time. The depth of this slate of candidates is incredible.”
Asked how the party builds on this positivity, Mr Butler commented: “We keep moving forward and we keep telling our story. We have the people, we have the message, now we have to go to the voters and show them that the Ulster Unionist Party is ready to lead unionism again.”
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