UUP leader Nesbitt 'will take action over taunts to David Simpson children'
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has said he takes very seriously allegations that members of his party carried out a campaign of abuse against Upper Bann MP David Simpson and his family.
The DUP MP claims UUP supporters taunted him on social media and made insulting comments about his adoptive children.
He told the Belfast Telegraph that in 18 years in politics he had "never seen anything as despicable and personal".
"It's an awful situation where someone adopts an international family and where that family is lambasted, maybe because of their colour or for whatever," he said.
Mr Simpson and his wife Elaine adopted a girl from India in 1986 who they named Kristy Sitara, and twins Steven and Leah from Paraguay in 1989.
They are now all in their 20s and Mr Simpson has spoken publicly about his pride in his international family.
Leah, who works for her father, responded to comments on social media, praising her adoptive parents and her upbringing.
Responding to Mr Simpson's allegations in a public letter, Mr Nesbitt asked for proof of what had been claimed.
Referring to the expulsion of former Ulster Unionist veteran Lord Maginnis over homophobic comments several years ago, Mr Nesbitt said he showed zero tolerance for such behaviour.
He asked for more information about the comments Mr Simpson made at the Upper Bann count early on Friday morning, and said he took the allegations "most seriously".
He wrote to Mr Simpson: "As I hope you are aware, I have in the past demonstrated zero tolerance to members of my party who act in unacceptable ways, whether it be expressions of homophobia, or public displays of disloyalty."
Mr Nesbitt added: "If any member of the Ulster Unionist Party has indeed acted in the manner you appear to allege, I assure you I shall not be found wanting in my reaction, but first I need the evidence."
Mr Nesbitt said he would have preferred to correspond privately. "But as you have put your allegations into the public domain, the choice of communication platform was already chosen and this is therefore, an open letter," he said.
The Ulster Unionist leader also tackled Mr Simpson over a pre-election poll published in last week's edition of the Portadown Times which put the DUP at 30% of the vote, Sinn Fein close behind with 28% and the UUP with 25%.
In the final vote count in Upper Bann, the DUP was top with 15,430 votes, followed by the UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson with 13,166 votes and Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley with 11,593 votes.
Mr Nesbitt said: "I find it astonishing that the name of the organisation conducting the poll and the date it was conducted remain a mystery to the public.
"Given Sinn Fein finished third (again) in the election in Upper Bann, it would be a service to all to name names, so we can all avoid wasting our money employing that organisation in the future."
Portadown Times editor Alistair Bushe commented on Twitter yesterday that more information would appear in the next edition of the newspaper.