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UUP to walk out of Northern Ireland Executive after ruling body endorses Mike Nesbitt proposal

Party members unanimously back leader's recommendation to withdraw and form opposition

By Jonathan Bell

Published 29/08/2015

UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt arrives at the Park Avenue Hotel. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt arrives at the Park Avenue Hotel. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mike Nesbitt addresses the media after party meeting. Pic: Presseye
Mike Nesbitt addresses the media.
Mike Nesbitt leads former leader Reg Empey, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and his party out of the Stormont Executive.
Minister Danny Kennedy
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and former leader Reg Empey at the meeting.
MEP Jim Nicholson arrives.
Mike Nesbitt with Reg Emepy and Councillor Mark Cosgrove.
MP Tom Elliott pictured at the meeting. Pic: Presseye
South Antrim MP Danny Kinnahan arrives. Pic Presseye.
Mike Nesbitt waves to party members.

The UUP's ruling body has endorsed leader Mike Nesbitt's proposal to leave the Executive and form an opposition.

Mike Nesbitt announced on Wednesday the party was to walk out of the Executive and form an opposition.

He described the Executive as a "busted flush" amid claims of IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

That proposal was ratified at a meeting of the party's executive in the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast on Saturday night.

Members voted unanimously to leave the powersharing government.

Mr Nesbitt, who was given a rousing reception as he arrived for the party meeting in east Belfast, said the UUP can no longer work in coalition with Sinn Fein.

Around 90 members of the UUP's ruling executive gathered in the hotel to cast their vote.

"The Ulster Unionist Party will be leaving the Northern Ireland Executive next week," Mr Nesbitt announced at the end of the 90 minute meeting.

"This decision was unanimous."

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy is expected to formally step down on Tuesday, as Monday is a bank holiday.

The party is to move to form an opposition, despite there being no mechanism in place for such a option.

Read more

UUP Executive withdrawal: Mike Nesbitt statement in full  

The move is highly symbolic given the party was one of the architects of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that paved the way for nationalists and unionists to share power.

The accord did not envisage an Assembly with an official opposition.

Under the system of allocating Executive ministers, the DUP would have first refusal of the vacant brief.

Mr Nesbitt said his party had lost trust in Sinn Fein following the PSNI's assessment that the Provisional IRA was involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast's Short Strand.

Police said some members of the terrorist organisation were involved in the shooting of the father-of-nine, but there was no evidence the killing was sanctioned by its leadership.

It's thought the murder was a revenge attack for the killing of one-time IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison in the Markets area of the city in May.

Sinn Fein, however, has repeatedly stressed that the IRA has "gone away".

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the UUP of playing party politics while the DUP accused the party of hypocrisy.

The UUP's move, while not forcing the collapse of the devolved institutions, throws the future of powersharing into further doubt.

The DUP has said there is enough evidence to exclude Sinn Fein from the Executive.

Deputy leader, Nigel Dodds said it couldn't be business as usual at Stormont with claims the IRA remain in the background.

The party is seeking a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the matter.

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