Brokenshire 'should chair all-party talks' says Nesbitt
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt expects the secretary of state to chair any all-party talks which are held after next month’s assembly election.
Sinn Féin and Alliance have previously questioned James Brokenshire’s impartiality as a talks chair.
They pointed to a newspaper article in which he expressed his concern about the focus of legacy investigations.
Mr Brokenshire suggested inquiries into killings were “disproportionately” focused on the police and the army.
However, Mr Nesbitt told the BBC’s Inside Politics programme that the Stormont Assembly had “tried international chairs in the past with no success”.
The Ulster Unionist leader said that as Northern Ireland was part of the UK and he expected any further negotiations to be chaired by its secretary of state.
On the issue of legacy, Mr Nesbitt favours the reinstatement of the disbanded PSNI Historical Enquiries Team.
He does not agree with introducing a statute of limitations to prevent soldiers being prosecuted in relation to troubles incidents – a policy favoured by the DUP.
The Ulster Unionist leader said that if someone has broken the law, they should be made accountable.
However, he argued that “75-year-old military veterans should not be treated punitively but shown compassion, mercy and balance”.
Mr Nesbitt told Inside Politics that he does not support the introduction of an Irish language act.
He described Irish as a “beautiful language” and insisted he bore no ill will towards anyone who wanted to learn speak or celebrate Irish.
He said he regarded recent comments from DUP leader Arlene Foster on the Irish language as “intemperate”.
But he said he was not persuaded of the need for legislation and pointed to the provisions already made for an Irish language strategy, adding that other issues, such as tackling poverty, should have a higher priority.
The DUP has claimed the Ulster Unionists are not running enough candidates to be the biggest party in a future assembly.
However, Mr Nesbitt said he was running to be in government, not in opposition, and claimed that he had “crunched the numbers” and was running just enough candidates, at 24, to be the lead party.
The Ulster Unionist leader said he enjoyed a good chemistry with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, despite their differences on issues like future joint British Irish authority over Northern Ireland.
Asked if Ulster Unionist voters should give their second preferences to the SDLP or other unionists, Mr Nesbitt would only say they should vote for any candidate they trust to do the right thing for their community, constituency and country.
Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland