UUP candidate Colin McCusker: I quit Assembly race to be with my children

Colin McCusker
Colin McCusker

In political life, the phrase, “resigning to spend more time with my family” is a notorious euphemism to cover up a sacking or internal row.

But one prospective Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate who earlier this week confirmed that he was standing aside as a candidate has spoken to explain that his young family and the fact that his MP father died prematurely had been a significant factor in his decision.

Colin McCusker, whose father Harold was Upper Bann MP from 1983 until his death in 1990, is the UUP’s general secretary and was to have been one of its three candidates in Upper Bann in May’s election.

His decision – which came in the same week that fellow UUP candidate Olive Mercer quit the Lagan Valley race over unspecified “efforts to hinder campaign” – led to speculation that all is not well in some parts of the UUP.

But now Mr McCusker – who unsuccessfully stood in the 2011 Assembly election – has spoken personally about why he decided not to seek a career as an MLA.

In a message to friends and supporters on his Facebook page, the Craigavon councillor said: “Please be assured that the decision not to run for the Assembly election was entirely mine.

“As most of you know, I grew up with a dad who was a full-time politician, and I am well aware of the commitment and personal sacrifices involved.

“I have two children, aged nine and eight, and over Christmas, as a family we took time to reflect on what lay ahead of us in 2016 and possibly beyond.

“I genuinely fear the prospect of waking up in 10 years time with my children off to university, and being left wondering if I had played any part in their formative teenage years.”

Mr McCusker said that the premature death of his father – who was the UUP’s deputy leader – from cancer had also played a part in his decision.

“My dad died when he was 50, and while I know it’s irrational, that age, for me, is a significant milestone. As I approach the big 5-0, (which is more than a few years away) I want to ensure that I make the most of my family time.

“My friend Kyle Savage has replaced me on the Ulster Unionist ticket, and I will be doing everything I can to support him.”

Earlier this month, veteran Castlereagh Alliance councillor Geraldine Rice told the News Letter that she now felt that after years in political life she had “not always put my family first” and said that she now realised that her grandchildren “grow up so fast”.