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UUP MLA Ross Hussey to stand down on health grounds

Thursday, 26 January 2017

UUP MLA Ross Hussey to stand down on health grounds thumbnailRoss Hussey closes the door of his office as the Ulster Unionist Party MLA is retiring from politics.

ULSTER Unionist MLA for West Tyrone, Ross Hussey, has confirmed he won't be seeking re-election after announcing his retirement from political life on health grounds.

Mr Hussey was a serving Assembly member of six years and was the party's Policing Board spokesperson.

The former RUC reservist, confirmed in a statement on Monday that he would not be seeking to contest the new March 2 NI Assembly election due to his deteriorating health. He is currently awaiting surgery and accepts that the period of time required to recover from the surgery will be substantial, which would make it difficult for him to manage his constituency. Although he has announced his retirement from politics, he has stressed his loyalty to the Ulster Unionist Party and wishes his successor and the party every success in the future. 

In the wake of his decision, the UUP will now announce a new candidate to contest the forthcoming election.

While the party would not officially divulge how many were seeking the position, it is understood that the names of up to two candidates were being put forward. No official date has been given for this announcement but it is expected it will be on or before Friday.

Informed sources have suggested that a sitting councillor, Chris Smyth, and another individual, Alicia Clarke, may be among those being considered.

Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, said he was saddened to hear that Mr Hussey had decided to step down.

"Ross has served his country as member of the RUCR and then continued to serve the community through politics. He has given years of loyal service to the Ulster Unionist Party and to the people of West Tyrone whom he represented. He will be greatly missed by me and the rest of his colleagues in the Assembly group and of course by the people of West Tyrone who he has served so diligently," he said.

"I especially want to thank Ross for his words of support since I became leader of the party and I hope that his health improves so that he can continue to play a role."

In outlining his reasons for stepping down, Mr Hussey, stressed that a newspaper sting surrounding his private life in July of last year had no bearing on the decision.

Speaking to the Tyrone Constitution yesterday (Tuesday), he said: "I have carefully considered all the options open to me at this time and have decided on reflection I should step back and retire from political life. Anyone who knows me will know I have been suffering from various medical issues which includes the need for two replacement knees.

“Like many others I am waiting for my operation. I have to have my right knee replaced and hopefully within six months have the second one done. That means a prolonged period of recovery and if elected I would be absent from my desk for an extended period. I do not believe it would be right for me to stand and then 'step back' or have someone co-opted in possibly a short space of time.

“Following a discussion with my family and with the support of my party, the Leader and chief whip, I have decided to retire.

“I have had an opportunity to represent Omagh town as a councillor for seven years achieving vice-chairmanship of Omagh District Council and I have had the honour of being an MLA for the constituency of West Tyrone for the past almost six years.

“I have enjoyed my 12 years of public service. I believe my staff and I have made a difference to the people of this area and I must pay tribute to them for going far beyond any job description to deliver a first class service on a daily basis.

“I am and will always be an Ulster Unionist and I wish my successor and the party every success in this election and in the future."  

In relation to a successor, an Ulster Unionist spokesperson from party headquarters in Belfast said: "There is an internal selection process ongoing and we will not be making any comment until it is completed."

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