Belfast Telegraph

UUP could rejoin Executive after election, says Nesbitt

By Noel McAdam

Ulster Unionists could go back into the next Stormont Executive, the party has confirmed after launching their Assembly election pitch - three months ahead of the poll.

But the UUP will not take any final decision until at least two weeks after the results in May, following negotiations with the other main parties.

Leader Mike Nesbitt said inter-party talks to draw up a detailed blueprint for the next five years - the so-called programme for government (PfG) - have already been agreed.

But he insisted the verdict on the UUP taking up Ministerial office - four months after withdrawing their sole representative, Danny Kennedy - would depend on being able to answer two questions positively.

"First, do we believe that we have come up with an effective, progressive programme for government and second, importantly, have we a sense that there is the collective political will to deliver it, he said.

"If the answer to either question is 'no', we will not be going into government."

Mr Nesbitt also confirmed he has already begun talks on forming an official opposition at Stormont with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who last month said the next Assembly should be the last without formal opposition structures.

Their discussions could pave the way for a joint UUP/SDLP opposition, leaving just the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance forming the Executive.

His disclosure came as the UUP yesterday effectively launched their Assembly election campaign with their own document 'Our Vision for You, The Voter' - the first of nine papers ending with their election manifesto.

The other policy papers will include the economy, education, two on health and one on animal welfare - but one central plank is the further transfer of powers from Stormont to local councils and directly into communities.

"The main message we are hearing is that Northern Ireland is not working properly because of the political failure of leadership," Mr Nesbitt argued.

The document itself warned the United Kingdom could still break up "in this generation".

The party said it recognised the danger that the UK will vote to leave the European Union in the referendum expected in June, while Scotland votes to remain in.

The result of the Scottish referendum was close, with the Scottish Nationalist Party doing more for independence from London "without a single bomb or bullet than Irish Republicanism achieved through our bloody Troubles."

The party aims that by 2021 Northern Ireland will be united in "common purpose and humanity" so that by 2050 "we can be one of the most attractive small countries in the world".

Mr Nesbitt said the years of joint DUP/Sinn Fein administration had produced failures like the Maze/Long Kesh project, the promised police and fire training college at Desertcreat, near Cookstown and tackling poverty through the Social Investment Fund in which only £2m of £80m had been spent.

"What is needed is... new parties at the heart of government; a cultural change in how we do government (and) a new mindset that shifts the focus from cycles of inaction followed by crises..." the document said.

Belfast Telegraph


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