Northern Ireland assembly elections: Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt quits

Jon Sharman
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who has resigned: PA Wire/PA Images

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt has announced he will resign.

With the UUP failing to make any ground on the Democratic Unionists in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, and losing a number of high-profile seats, the former TV anchor fell on his sword, saying: “The buck stops here.”

His campaign pledge to transfer a second preference vote to the nationalist SDLP appears to have been his undoing, with unionist voters clearly not keen on him voicing support for any candidate that favoured a united Ireland.

He said that he will remain in position while his successor is found.

Mr Nesbitt was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011 and retained his seat in the 2017 poll. He will remain as member for Strangford and said it had been an “absolute honour” to lead the party.

“In pure terms the buck stops here,” he said.

He said his real regret was that Northern Ireland society appeared to have emerged from the election more polarised.

Mr Nesbitt said the electorate had rejected his hope for a post-sectarian vote.

“We will get there,” he said. “Some day Northern Ireland will vote as a normal democracy. We will vote in a post-sectarian election but it's now clear it will not happen during the duration of my political career.”

Additional reporting by PA