Story broken by the News Letter’s political editor, Sam McBride;
“I said a few weeks ago that it was time to hand the baton on and that is still my belief. Therefore I won`t be putting my name forward to seek selection as the Ulster Unionist Party`s candidate in the forthcoming European elections.”
Continuing he told the News Letter
I worked with Ian Paisley and John Hume to secure peace funding from Europe and it’s something of which I am enormously proud. I want to wish all the best to whoever is nominated as the Ulster Unionist Party’s candidate.”
Statement from UUP Leader, Robin Swann
“Jim may be standing down but I am sure this won`t be last time we`ll be hearing his views. He has been a sensible voice in politics throughout the Troubles and right up until the present day. He is an unashamed unionist and has always stood up for the interests of Northern Ireland and our place within the United Kingdom.
“His wise counsel has always been welcomed within the party and I look forward to that continuing. If anybody thinks Jim will slip quietly into retirement, they don`t know the man. I want to personally thank Jim for the all the help and support that he has given me over the years. It is much appreciated.”
Full statement from Jim Nicholson;
“There has been a lot of speculation regarding my intentions after it was announced that European elections are scheduled to take place on 23 May. I said a few weeks ago that it was time to hand the baton on and that is still my belief. Therefore I won`t be putting my name forward to seek selection as the Ulster Unionist Party`s candidate in the forthcoming European elections.
“It has been an enormous honour to represent Northern Ireland in the European Parliament for the last 30 years as an Ulster Unionist MEP. I have always endeavoured to do what`s right for all our people no matter their background. I worked with Ian Paisley and John Hume to secure peace funding from Europe and it’s something of which I am enormously proud. I want to wish all the best to whoever is nominated as the Ulster Unionist Party`s candidate.
“The way in which Brexit has been handled is scandalous. It is well known that I supported remain, however we made clear after the referendum result that the democratic vote should be respected and the United Kingdom should be leaving the EU. We need an end to the uncertainty and I would like to see the UK leaving the EU by the end of June with a sensible deal. However the fact that the United Kingdom is now facing the prospect of European Elections, and the backstop, which undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom, has been allowed to dictate the nature of our future relationships, underlines the absurdity of the Government`s negotiating tactics.
“I also strongly refute the suggestion by the Irish Government, some nationalist politicians and commentators that unionists who voted remain are anything but 100% committed to the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is genuine anger at the continued misrepresentation of their views by those such as Sinn Fein who certainly don`t have the interests of Northern Ireland or its people at heart. The continued dismissal of unionist concerns over the backstop is concerning and does not bode well for the future if that is the prevailing approach. Unionists have as much right to be listened to and their concerns addressed as any other part of society. If not, it will undermine the very foundations of the Belfast Agreement.”
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs