14 May 2021 | NEWS

Defeating Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP by 2 votes to succeed Arlene Foster, hard-line Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has been chosen as DUP Leader-Elect.

Poots’ victory comes after current Leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster announced in April that she would shortly step down from both positions, after rumours of a forced leadership contest. Deputy Leader and former MP Nigel Dodds, who lost his Westminster seat in the 2019 General Election, also stood aside and his replacement will be Paula Bradley MLA.

Poots will take over the leadership on the 28 May, but confirmed that another party member would be chosen as the First Minister of Northern Ireland so he can focus on the restructuring of his party and challenge the Northern Ireland Protocol in the UK’s future partnership deal with the EU after Brexit.

Speaking immediately after his election, the new Leader said it was “an immense honour” and that he was looking forward to a “positive relationship” with colleagues, the public of Northern Ireland and – reaching across the fraught political divide – “people of other parties”. Poots also marked the centenary of Northern Ireland by saying that “the opportunities for us to make Northern Ireland a great place after this hundred years has passed and we move into a new hundred years are immense”.

Donaldson congratulated his opponent, but appeared critical of the direction Poots could take the DUP in: “Now the party must consider what that means for our way forward, what it means for the union that we all cherish and what it means for Northern Ireland – this place that is my home, a place that I love.”

Upon election, Deputy Leader-Elect Bradley stood at the podium and said she would help Poots “in any way I can”, and that she will be a “critical friend” to the socially conservative leader, who has previously attracted controversy for comments about homosexuality.

Born in 1965, Poots was a Councillor in his hometown of Lisburn, County Antrim, before being elected to the new Assembly in Northern Ireland in 1998. Shortly after being elected to mainstream politics, he opposed the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which was created to create peace between mainland the island of Ireland and its UK neighbour.

Hugo Sugg is a political commentator and aspiring MP. His interests include homelessness, democracy and influencing policy. He is also the CEO of a charity responding to homelessness.

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