Belfast Telegraph

Mike Nesbitt reveals biggest regret as UUP leader as he gives final speech to party executive

By Claire Williamson

Mike Nesbitt has given his final leader's speech to the Ulster Unionist Party Executive after he dramatically resigned as leader following a dismal showing at the election.

After almost five years in office Mike Nesbitt left an election count in Newtownards to announce his resignation during the snap Assembly election.

He has said he will stay on as an MLA.

In his final speech he addressed a wide range of topics.

Read more:  Mike Nesbitt final speech to UUP executive in full

He discussed what made him get into politics in the first place and his transition from UTV anchorman to politician.

He also told of his biggest regret in his time as UUP leader which he said was the "Assembly".

Mr Nesbitt also accused the DUP of having politics which "endangers our future".

He said: "My big regret is the Assembly. I led us into two Assembly Elections, hoping Northern Ireland was ready for its first post-sectarian Assembly Election."

Mr Nesbitt said that unionism needs to "engage more" and said that "includes engaging with Irish Republicanism.

"My vision remains of a partnership, a partnership of the willing.

"That is not what I hear from the DUP, which is unionism whose language is intent on domination.

"They talk of “rogue” and “renegade” ministers. They can talk of the “crocodile” that needs starved. All that language achieves is further division, polarisation and the energising of voters who were previously content to put their constitutional aspirations to one side as they enjoyed the benefits of being within the UK – making money, educating their children, having access to a health service without having to pay - and all the rest.

"What is missing from the DUP is any sense of the values and principles of 1998: reconciliation, tolerance, trust building and the demonstration of mutual respect. It is the unionism of domination, not partnership. It is – to my mind – the politics that endangers our future.

"Northern Ireland’s future within the United Kingdom will be best secured by maximising the number of people who are content and happy with their lot, including Catholics and aspiring nationalists. When people are too busy enjoying life, the more secure the Union will be."

Mr Nesbitt concluded: "Finally, I want to make clear I love this country, I love this party and I will offer 100% support to our next Leader.

"Any true Unionist must strive to create a post-sectarian society – I believe it will happen - some day - and in doing so, we will secure the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"That is all I ever wanted."

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