Mike Nesbitt has broken his silence to say that “play-acting” led to him being photographed face down on a Belfast hotel floor last month.
The bizarre picture of the Ulster Unionist general election candidate for Strangford and former party leader appeared on the front page of the The Sun newspaper last week.
Initially Mr Nesbitt declined to offer an explanation for the image – showing a woman grabbing him by the back of his collar – but has now said it was all “a bit of fun” with members of a wedding party at the Stormont Hotel.
The woman involved was identified in Sunday newspapers as Falls Road pensioner Marie Hyland.
Mrs Hyland said she had been engaged in “horseplay” with the high-profile politician and that “it was all a joke”.
The 73-year-old great-grandmother told the Sunday Life: “It was a misunderstanding.”
She said: “I was at a wedding in the hotel and Mike Nesbitt was there. He had been out playing golf with friends. There was a bit of banter and he lay down on the floor.”
Mr Nesbitt is quoted as saying: “I wish to clarify that my engagement with the wedding party was only a bit of fun, and has been blown totally out of context by the publication of the photograph in The Sun newspaper.”