21 February 2017
DUP candidate Joanne Bunting has welcomed comments from Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Rodgers that he did not support Mike Nesbitt’s policy of transferring to nationalist candidates ahead of other unionists.
The East Belfast candidate said, “Jim’s comments today are a further demonstration that Mike Nesbitt is not only out of touch with the majority of unionists in East Belfast, but with his own party membership. The divisions throughout the UUP have been highighted for all to see over an issue which should be clear-cut.
The DUP will form an Executive with all parties that are entitled to a place in government after the election. It is our intention to work positively for the good of Northern Ireland and we make no apology for wanting to maximise the number of Unionists elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It should be clear that voting for a nationalist party ahead of unionist candidates can only reduce the number of unionist MLAs elected.
On BBC’s Talkback programme Mike Nesbitt defended his support for agreed unionist candidates in the 2015 General Election by stating that if the majority of Northern Ireland’s MPs were nationalist that it could be grounds for the Secretary of State calling a border poll.
Ms Bunting continued, “Mike Nesbitt’s position is once again entirely contradictory. Having rightly said that he wanted to maximise unionist representation at Westminster he appears now not to care about the level of unionist representation at Stormont.
Whilst I have no doubt that a border poll for a united Ireland would be easily defeated, in the current climate it would only serve to further destabilise politics here and increase community tensions at a time when we should be focusing on health, education and the real problems facing people’s lives.
It is ridiculous however to claim that nationalist representation at Westminster is somehow more important than at Stormont. That however is where Mike Nesbitt now finds himself as he strives for relevance in an election where he is not even running enough candidates to win."