The UUP Executive met in the Park Ave Hotel in East Belfast to formally decide whether to pull out of the Northern Ireland Executive. Around 90 delegates debated the issue for over an hour and unanimously voted to leave.
The sole UUP minister, Danny Kennedy will tender his resignation on Tuesday and Mike Nesbitt will refuse to nominate a successor. The post will then fall to the DUP to fill the vacancy.
For such an important decision there was a sense of calm at the meeting. Some of the older journalists regaled me with stories of old Unionist Council meetings which were often raucous and always had a tense atmosphere. That sense of division appears to have all but vanished and the party’s free fall has been halted.
After the meeting broke up, I sat down with the UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt.
Some of the key takeaways that I got from it;
- On regaining “trust” in Sinn Fein, Nesbitt does see the need for either a referendum on a new deal or the re-establishment of the Independent Monitoring Commission.
- He will not be seeking a meeting with Sinn Fein at this stage as he sees no point in having one.
- Nesbitt believes that the current executive is a “busted flush” and cannot be mended.
- When asked about the DUP’s approach to the current crisis, Nesbitt believes that unlike the DUP, his party are taking a principled stand on this issue.
- Nesbitt doesn’t regret cooperating with parties like the PUP over the past few years.
- The UUP will not stop co-operation at council level, this decision is just for the Executive.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs