Ulster Unionist party head resigns after setback in Northern Ireland election

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Northern Ireland’s snap election claimed its first political scalp on Friday after the leader of the Ulster Unionist party announced his resignation.

“In pure terms, the buck stops here,” said Mike Nesbitt, the UUP leader, after the party — once the dominant voice of Ulster unionism — performed poorly in Thursday’s election for a new assembly for Northern Ireland.

The UUP is the increasingly ineffective voice of moderate unionism. It has been sidelined over more than a decade by the more hardline Democratic Unionist party.

The DUP also performed worse than it expected to in the assembly election, but it will still be the largest party in the assembly when the counting of votes is concluded on Saturday.

The election outcome is being seen as a severe blow to moderate unionism, which was increasingly willing to compromise with centrist Irish nationalists.

Mr Nesbitt, a former journalist, has been leader of the UUP since 2012. The party will now begin the process of choosing his successor. He retained his seat in the assembly, but several of his senior party colleagues were ousted.

He said he had tried to fight the election campaign on a modern platform of compromise and moderation. “The electorate clearly disagreed with me,” he said.

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