Behaviour at the count was unacceptable - MP

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A war of words between Upper Bann MP David Simpson and Ulster Unionist Leader Mike Nesbitt is rumbling on with Mr Simpson accusing UUP activists of inappropriate behaviour.

Mr Simpson has written to the Ulster Unionist leader expressing his views on what he says was the “low and despicable” nature of the campaign.

He was responding to an open letter from Mr Nesbitt calling on the Upper Bann MP to provide evidence to back up his accusations.

“If any member of the Ulster Unionist Party has indeed acted in the manner you appear to allege, I assure you I shall not be found wanting in my reaction, but first I need the evidence,” wrote the UUP leader.

In his response, Mr Simpson said: “The behaviour of supporters of your party at the count centre in Banbridge on Thursday 7th May was very unprofessional to say the least.

“ When I was speaking, people in the audience continued to shout and one even went as far as drawing their hand across their throat in a manner which suggested they wanted to slice one of my esteemed supporters throat. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable in a democratic society and I would have expected workers and supporters to behave in a professional rather than bully-boy fashion.”

Mr Simpson also criticised UUP General Secretary Colin McCusker for comments made online. Mr. Simpson said the comments had subsequently been removed.

He also spoke about the hurt caused to his children as a result of comments made online in the run up to polling day.

Mr Simpson said he would, together with his family, consider reporting incidents to the relevant authorities.

The Upper Bann MP said he would not be discussing the matter further in public and left the issue at the feet of the UUP leader.

“It is a matter for you and the Ulster Unionist Party as to whether you want to conduct your own investigation,” he stated.

“For my part I do not intend to make further public comment on these matters and any associated material that we may supply you will certainly not be done in a public forum.

“I regret you felt motivated to publish your letter and that I learned of its content from the online media. Perhaps you might reflect on whether that was the most professional course of action. I trust you will understand that due to that decision it is appropriate that I publish this reply.”