Tearful Ross Hussey tells of 'depths of despair' as he denies 'stranger sex' sting prompted retirement
'I felt walls falling on top of me, I would wake up and I couldn't breathe, if I was sitting in a room on my own I would start to cry'
Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey has spoken emotionally for the first time about his "darkest days" as he denied a newspaper sting surrounding his private life has brought an end to his political career.
The veteran West Tyrone politician and former RUC Reservist said the episode had nothing to do with him stepping down.
In July last year Mr Hussey was left red faced after a sting by the Sunday Life revealed details of his private life after he used an online dating app to arrange "stranger sex" and send nude pictures - unasked for - to an undercover reporter.
A reporter contacted Mr Hussey after he advertised on a contact site seeking sex with strangers as young as 17.
The well-known MLA and Policing Board member had posted a photograph of his face and gave graphic descriptions of his sexual preferences on his profile page which was easily accessible to the public via search engines such as Google.
Speaking to the BBC Stephen Nolan show on Tuesday, Mr Hussey told how following the episode he felt the walls were falling down on him.
Mr Hussey paid tribute to his party leader Mike Nesbitt who, when he tried to tender his resignation, rejected it and instead gave him a hug.
"I went through hell and had my darkest days in July.
"I really was in the depths of despair. I went through that, I had public support from my party, who I can say nothing but the highest regards for Mike Nesbitt.
"On the Monday I went into Mike Nesbitt and said I would resign, he hugged me and told me he wouldn't.
"He helped me through everything.
"It hurt and it was my own making, it really did hurt."
Describing what it was like seeing his personal life on the front of a newspaper, Mr Hussey said he was "humiliated" but said he regarded it all as his "own making".
"I was humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed and I regard that all of my own making.
"It was my own fault, I was stupid and naive, you name it.
"I was an idiot and I paid for that. I went through hell."
The 57-year-old said that he was as "close to total despair" as he could ever be, but he paid tribute to his family who rallied around him.
"We have a very strong family.
"I came to work on the Monday I had to face my demons. But when I was on my own, in bed at night, I felt walls falling on top of me, I would wake up and I couldn't breathe, if I was sitting in a room on my own I would start to cry. It really hurt and it still hurts me now.
"But it was my own fault and I paid the price.
"But that is not why I'm standing down.
"I love this job and I would challenge anyone to do it as well as I have in west Tyrone."
Reflecting on the outpouring of support he received following the publication of the story, he said he had support from people he would never have expected it from.
He said: "In one way, it was humiliating, the lowest of the low of my life and on the other hand it was an experience to see how people can support you when you need it."
The tearful politician said he had found happiness now but that he was getting upset thinking "about what a fool I was".
"I'll never be back to where I was.
"I'm a fighter but when it comes to my personal life, I am very closed, I want my personal life to be personal.
"It has hurt me and it will always hurt me."
He added: "I love this job. Everything I have done I have been upfront. I've done it and I stand up to it. I did my job here in West Tyrone as a professional politician and I served everyone without favour.
"I've been destroyed by that story but I bounced back. I've been there I know what despair is like, but I'm over that. When I made the decision to retire I made it after long consideration, I will go on with my life and I will enjoy my retirement.
"Get on with your life, you only get one", he added.