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Nationalists won't weep for UUP

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt resigned as Friday's assembly results came through
Connla Young

A further decline in the fortunes of the Ulster Unionist Party will be met with little sympathy by many nationalists.

While the SDLP may have presented a united opposition with Mike Nesbitt, for some the UUP will always be linked to Stormont misrule and gerrymandering.

That said, there is evidence that supporters of the two parties did collaborate in some areas to their mutual benefit.

In Fermanagh South Tyrone the UUP’s Rosemary Barton managed to cross the line with the help of SDLP transfers, while in Lagan Valley Pat Catney was also grateful to UUP supporters for a helping hand.

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Overall though, Mr Nesbitt’s gamble on declaring his intention to give the SDLP his second preference vote backfired.

His declaration will have done little to unite the party faithful as the election loomed and the SDLP’s failure, in particular that of Colum Eastwood, to fully reciprocate only added to Mr Nesbitt’s appearance of isolation on the issue.

As counting began on Friday it became apparent that the UUP had also failed to capitalise on the DUP’s difficulties over the RHI scandal.

It was obvious at an early stage that Arlene Foster’s “project fear” mantra had swamped Nesbitt’s doomed cross community approach and his party was facing another electoral meltdown.

By the time counting had finished early on Saturday morning the UUP had lost six seats and Mr Nesbitt had resigned as leader.

Among the casualties was former Newry and Armagh assembly member Danny Kennedy and Sandra Overend in Mid-Ulster.

Seats: 10

First preference votes: 103,314

Share of the vote: 12.9 percent up 0.3 percentage point

Verdict: Disaster


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