Northern Ireland news

Mike Nesbitt and Sir Reg Empey to sell unionism's case overseas

Mike Nesbitt will sell unionism's case in the US. Picture by Arthur Allison

MIKE Nesbitt is to spearhead a new transatlantic bid to sell a better brand of unionism.

The ex-news anchorman and his fellow former party leader Sir Reg Empey have been earmarked to lead annual missions to the US and Europe respectively, where they plan to make unionism’s case.

Mr Nesbitt told The Irish News that the move was designed to promote unionism overseas in areas where for many years nationalism has been influential.

He cited the incident in 1994 when the then UUP leader James Molyneaux and his DUP counterpart Ian Paisley boycotted a business conference in New York because Gerry Adams was attending.

They “walked off the pitch”, the Strangford MLA said, adding that unionists were “very poor when walking into a room full of people who don’t agree with us”.

Mr Nesbitt said he was hopeful the stateside trips would happen annually “around Thanksgiving”, while UUP leader Doug Beattie would also attend the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House.

He said the party would make use of military, religious, cultural and political connections.

“In my experience when you engage with people in debates, you don’t necessarily get converts but you’ll get people thinking more deeper and differently about what they want and unionism’s place in what they envisage as the future,” he said.

The former UUP leader said the tone of delivery would be softer.

“It’s important people understand that the DUP is not unionism,” he said.

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