Early birthday present for Nesbitt in ‘tortuous’ count wait

Early birthday present for Nesbitt in ‘tortuous’ count wait

11 May 2022

FORMER Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt believes there are grounds for a review of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, due to the “significant” changes to the political landscape.

His comments followed what he described as a “tortuous” wait to find out if he would be returning to Stormont as an MLA.

Mr Nesbitt’s number of first preference votes declined from 5,232 in 2017 to 3,693.

Mr Nesbitt faired better than his running mate Philip Smith, who, for a time appeared like he might scrape through. 

But when the counting was done, Mr Smith went out in the fourth round, with the final tally resulting in the election of only one of the UUP candidates. 

His election marked an early birthday present for the former broadcaster who turns 65 today.

Mr Nesbitt, who stepped down from the party leadership following the 2017 Assembly election, will now return for a fourth time to the Stormont legislature.

He says he is committed to representing everyone, not only his party 


Mr Nesbitt first entered the Assembly in 2011, following a period as Commissioner of Victims, a role he took up in 2008. 


Mr Nesbitt said it had been a 

“tortuous” wait to discover whether 

his unbroken run as an MLA would continue.

Looking ahead, Mr Nesbitt called on all the parties to get straight to work, adding that he believed there were grounds for a review of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, within the context of the current political environment.

“I think there are valid grounds for a serious review of the Belfast Agreement. The political landscape has changed significantly since 1998 and it’s better for the parties to sit down and starting working it through.”

“An independent facilitator, the likes of Senator George Mitchell, would do no harm,” he suggested. He conceded the review did not necessarily need an international figure, but that it was necessary they be a fully independent figure. 

Senator Mitchell was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, being appointed United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2001.

Mr Nesbitt also took the opportunity during the count to pay tribute to his party’s leader.

“We have got the right message with the right leader in Doug Beattie and the mistake we shouldn’t make is to step away from that progressive, inclusive, confident unionism.

“We have to keep at it until that message gets through,” he added.