UUP MLA Ross Hussey receives cross-party support after he apologises for explicit pictures
POLITICIANS across the spectrum have rallied in support of Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey after he apologised for sending naked pictures online.
The assembly member for West Tyrone thanked people on Sunday for their support, saying he was "surprised at the sincere messages" of goodwill.
It came after Sunday newspapers reported how Mr Hussey had sent explicit images of himself through an internet site he used to meet strangers for sexual encounters.
One newspaper report argued that as a Policing Board member he was risking his personal security by meeting with unknown individuals through the site.
It also questioned whether he had breached Policing Board and Stormont codes of conduct that members should not bring the public bodies into "disrepute".
Mr Hussey's online profile, in which he is described as "bi-curious", was discovered on a website for gay and bisexual men.
The newspaper said it was alerted by a source who was angered by the MLA voting in the assembly against same-sex marriage.
However, political rivals of Mr Hussey claimed the report unnecessarily intrudes into the unmarried MLA's private life.
Naomi Long, Alliance deputy leader and East Belfast MLA, tweeted: "Private lives are called that for a reason. If no abuse of office or illegality, should stay private. No public interest = curtain twitching."
Private lives are called that for a reason. If no abuse of office or illegality, should stay private. No public interest = curtain twitching— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) July 24, 2016
SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan, wrote on Facebook: "Every man or woman has a right to a private life – politician or otherwise. Ross is a good public representative who works tirelessly for our constituents. Is this really in the public interest? No."
The UUP said on Sunday that party leader Mike Nesbitt had spoken to Mr Hussey (57), a member of the Orange Order, about the matter.
A spokesman said: "Ross Hussey has not broken any law. He is a single man and entitled to a private life.
"The party leader and others have spoken to him and he has accepted fully he acted foolishly.
"He does not deny any of the facts that have been put in the public domain and he again has apologised for the embarrassment this has caused the party and his family."
Can I thank all of you for your messages of support I really appreciate it - I am really surprised at the sincere messages I have received— ROSS HUSSEY MLA (@RossHusseyMLA) July 24, 2016
Mr Hussey tweeted on Sunday: "Can I thank all of you for your messages of support I really appreciate it – I am really surprised at the sincere messages I have received."
In an earlier statement Mr Hussey said he had "made a terrible error of judgement".
"I accept fully that I have used websites and the internet to meet others and as I am a single man I did not think of the consequences," he said.
"I made a terrible error of judgement in sending photos and sincerely regret that my actions have brought me to public attention for all the wrong reasons."
"I apologise unreservedly to my family, colleagues and friends for any embarrassment I have caused."