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UUP gags officials as rumours of exit grow

By Suzanne Breen

Published 26/08/2015

Mike Nesbitt
Mike Nesbitt

The Ulster Unionist Party leadership has placed a gagging order on its elected representatives preventing them from giving their views about the current political crisis without prior approval from the party's press office.

The ban on speaking to the media without clearance has been placed on all UUP MLAs and councillors along with the party's two MPs and one MEP.

It comes as rumours grow that leader Mike Nesbitt may take the UUP out of the Assembly today.

Contacted last night he refused to comment on whether his party was pulling out, referring us to the party press office which also did not respond by the time of going to press.

The gag comes amidst a growing feeling among some UUP figures that the party should pull out of the Stormont Executive following the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the PSNI's assertion that the Provisional IRA continues to exist.

UUP sources claimed that Mr Nesbitt is insisting that he sets the tone of the party's response to the current crisis.

A party insider said: "Mike says the party is considering its position on leaving the Executive but some of us fear it's just a fudge in preparation of the UUP taking no action. The leadership does not want anyone with those views airing them in public. They don't want anyone to be off-message with Mike."

In communication sent to every elected representative, the UUP press office said: "The party leadership has requested that all public statements or media engagements regarding the current political situation in Northern Ireland should be cleared/agreed with the party press office beforehand."

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