Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ex-UTV presenter Mike Nesbitt picked as UUP candidate

Mike Nesbitt said he was standing for the people of Strangford

Former television presenter Mike Nesbitt has been selected as a general election candidate for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in Strangford.

Mr Nesbitt resigned as one of Northern Ireland's Victims' Commissioners on Wednesday.

"I had one motivation as a Victims Commissioner," Mr Nesbitt said.

"That motivation stays with me in seeking to become an MP and that is to make a positive difference in the day to day lives of people."

He added: "I believe that I now have the full range of skills that I didn't have before I joined the commission and what was missing was a knowledge of public service."

Mr Nesbitt will have to go before a joint committee of the UUP and Conservatives, who are in an electoral alliance, for his candidacy to be finalised.

Strangford was held at the last general election by Iris Robinson of the DUP.

Mrs Robinson stepped down from politics in December following a BBC Spotlight programme which investigated her business dealings with her lover.

Mr Nesbitt is a former UTV presenter.

On the subject of the NI Assembly, Mr Nesbitt said: "There's a lot about the devolved administration which is good, but there's also dysfunctionality.

"It's time to take the stabilisers off the bike and pedal it under our own power and not have prime ministers and taoiseach up from Dublin to put their hand on the back to make sure we don't wobble."

He said he could understand if some long-term party activists in Strangford resented his candidacy, but said he would talk to them to convince them he was doing it for them, not for himself.

Votes

At the 2005 Westminster election the DUP had 56% of the vote in Strangford with the Ulster Unionists a distant second on 21%. There was a similar voting pattern in the 2007 Stormont election.

Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy said Mr Nesbitt should have resigned from the Victims Commission before he was selected as a UUP candidate.

The three remaining commissioners, Patricia MacBride, Bertha McDougall and Brendan McAllister, appeared at Stormont on Wednesday during a scheduled briefing with Assembly members.

Mr Molloy asked them if the commission could be seen as independent and neutral when one of the commissioners had clear political connections while he was in the job.

All three of them rejected any suggestion that the body's neutrality had been compromised.

Brendan McAllister said: "There's a difference between his period of work in public service with us and the new phase of his life that he is commencing today, and he had our confidence during that time."

Patricia MacBride, whose brother was an IRA member killed during the Troubles, said any idea of partisanship among commissioners did not stand up to the reality of how they worked on the ground.

Bertha McDougall, the widow of a murdered Royal Ulster Constabulary officer, acknowledged that some victims may feel more comfortable working with one particular commissioner given their backgrounds but dismissed any suggestion that the commissioners acted for political parties.



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