UUP MLA Ross Hussey confirms he won't be seeking re-election due to health concerns
Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey has 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, who is now 58, said the episode had nothing to do with him stepping down.
Instead he insisted a double knee operation over a protracted period ahead had led to his decision not to seek re-election.
He made the announcement as he joined MLAs to condemn the attempted killing of a PSNI officer in north Belfast.
“I hope that in the next Assembly no politician has to stand up and condemn a murderous attack on a police officer,” he told BBC Radio Foyle.
Mr Hussey told his party he was currently awaiting surgery and the period of time required for recovery would make it difficult for him to manage his constituency.
The Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he was saddened by the decision. “Ross has served his country as member of the RUCR and then continued to serve the community through politics. He has given years of loyal service to the Ulster Unionist Party and to the people of West Tyrone whom he represented,” Mr Nesbitt said. “He will be greatly missed by me and the rest of his colleagues in the Assembly group and, of course, by the people of West Tyrone who he has served so diligently.”
Mr Hussey said: “Anyone who knows me will know I have been suffering from various medical issues which includes the need for two replacement knees. Like many others I am waiting for my operation. I have to have my right knee replaced and hopefully within six months have the second one done.
“That means a prolonged period of recovery and if elected I would be absent from my desk for an extended period. I do not believe it would be right for me to stand and then ‘step back’ or have someone co-opted in possibly a short space of time. Following a discussion with my family and with the support of my party, the Leader and chief whip, I have decided to retire.”
Mr Hussey represented Omagh town as a councillor for seven years during which time he was vice-chair before being elected as an MLA for the constituency of West Tyrone for the past almost six years. “I am, and will always be, an Ulster Unionist and I wish my successor and the party every success in this election and in the future,” a statement added.