Belfast Telegraph

Mike Nesbitt: I would attend Northern Ireland and Republic matches if I was First Minister

By Noel McAdam

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has revealed he would go to Republic of Ireland football games if he were First Minister.

Mr Nesbitt - already under fire in his party for indicating he intended to give his second-preference vote to an SDLP candidate - made the disclosure on Twitter.

He wrote: "As First Minister, I would have gone to both matches. I admire Michael O'Neill and Martin O'Neill. I support NI but also wish RoI well."

His announcement came after DUP leader Arlene Foster defended her decision not to attend the Irish side's European Cup games, even though Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness went to a Republic match and a Northern Ireland game.

Former First Minister Mrs Foster insisted she was "not into gesture politics".

Martin McGuinness attended Northern Ireland's final Euro 2016 group game against Germany last June.

However, Mrs Foster did not accompany Mr McGuinness when he then went to the Republic of Ireland's final group game against Italy in Lille later in that month.

Speaking on the BBC's The View programme, she said: "If you are seriously suggesting that the administration has collapsed because I did not go to a Republic of Ireland match - that has been suggested - that is facile in the extreme."

When Mr McGuinness's attendance and meeting with the Queen was put to her, Mrs Foster continued: "I don't do political capital. I am not into gesture politics, I am into real politics.

"I fundamentally believe in the Northern Ireland team and wanted them to win."

Carol Black, a former Ulster Unionist councillor on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, resigned after Mr Nesbitt disclosed his vote transfer plan, which he insisted had not been a mistake.

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