Belfast Telegraph

Mike Nesbitt focuses on three key proposals for UUP future

BY LIAM CLARKE

Mike Nesbitt offered not one but three ideas in his party conference speech.

They were a trauma centre for all victims of violence, a single education system for all religious communities, and a new Ulster Covenant to embrace nationalists and republicans as well as unionists and loyalists.

He opened by claiming victory in helping scupper the Maze Long Kesh Peace and Reconciliation Centre. An architect's drawing of the £18m project was shown on a huge screen beside a beaming Mr Nesbitt who said, "to messrs Adams and McGuinness and the rest, I have this simple message: you're not always right you know. Because we haven't gone away you know."

That echoed Gerry Adams' famous words about the IRA in a 1995 speech. He portrayed IRA violence as counter-productive.

"If I forever associate a united Ireland with no warning bombs like Bloody Friday and La Mon, is that my fault? Republicans chose it that way," he argued.

He proposed replacing the peace centre plan with a centre for mental trauma sufferers, perhaps based on vacant Government property at Ormiston House near Stormont. There the medical lessons of the Troubles could be made available locally and internationally.

Mr Nesbitt recalled that the first Education Minister, Lord Londonderry, had planned an integrated education but had been defeated by vested interests.

He also called for a new Ulster Covenant based on social and economic aspiration, not constitutional issues, and for more of Northern Ireland's £3bn procurement budget to be spent with local firms.

Belfast Telegraph

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