by Q Radio News and PA
Edwin Poots has been elected as the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Stormont Agriculture Minister Mr Poots was vying with the party’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to replace Arlene Foster, who announced her resignation last month.
The Lagan Valley MLA won by a razor-thin 19 votes to 17 in the poll carried out within the party’s 36-strong electoral college.
It was the first contested leadership vote in the DUP’s 50-year history.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Poots, who recently underwent cancer surgery, pledged that the DUP would be the “authentic voice” for unionism under his leadership.
“It is an immense honour and pleasure to stand here today in this position, it is not a position that I expected to be in some weeks ago,” he said in an address at party headquarters in east Belfast.
“However, things can change quite radically.”
During his speech as the new leader of the DUP, @edwinpootsmla says he will be a leader who will reach out to other unionist party leaders.— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) May 14, 2021
He says unionists must work together to fight the NI protocol - "we can't have unionists bickering as we have had in the past". pic.twitter.com/vLdLb4IINE
Mr Poots added: “I’m looking forward to a positive relationship right across Northern Ireland with my party colleagues and indeed with people from other parties.
“I think the opportunities for Northern Ireland are great, the opportunities for us to make Northern Ireland a great place after this 100 years has passed and we move into a new 100 years.”
Mr Poots praised the “resilience” of Northern Ireland people through the first 100 years of its existence.
“It’s that resilience that we are going to go forward (with) and make Northern Ireland a good place,” he said in an address at party headquarters in east Belfast.
“My father was a founder member of the DUP some 50 years ago, and I joined after the death of the Reverend Robert Bradford MP in 1981 and throughout all of that period this party has been the authentic voice of unionism and will continue to be the authentic voice of unionism under my leadership.”
DUP Leader, Edwin Poots.
Mrs Foster was ousted after an internal heave by party colleagues unhappy with her leadership and will step down from that role on May 28, and as Stormont First Minister at the end of June.
Mr Poots will be leader designate until Mrs Foster formally stands down. His election will now go to the party executive for ratification.
The DUP politicians eligible to vote comprised the party’s eight MPs and 28 Assembly members.
The voting by way of secret ballot took place at the party headquarters through Friday afternoon.
Ahead of the vote, Sir Jeffrey and Mr Poots made final pitches for support in a virtual hustings event on Friday morning.
Paula Bradley was elected the party’s new deputy leader. She defeated Gregory Campbell by 18 votes to 16.
DUP Deputy Leader, Paula Bradley.
Ms Bradley said she would at times be a “critical friend” to new leader Edwin Poots.
The North Belfast MLA, who succeeds Lord Dodds in the role, said: “It will be a great honour to serve this great party as deputy leader, I will do so to the very best of my ability, I will give it my all.
“I will support our leader in any way I can. I may be a critical friend at times to our leader, but what more could you expect from me other than that.
“It’s absolutely a great honour. I would never have thought just over a week ago that I would be standing here in this position today. But people encouraged me, have supported me, and obviously have voted for me as well.
“So I look forward to the challenge ahead and I know there will be challenges, it’s not going to be easy.
“There’s a lot of hard work that we need to do but I think if we remain focused and we remain grounded within our communities and know those issues that our communities have to face then we can meet that challenge and can rise to that challenge and take our great party forward.”
The leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, has tweeted that now is the time for "everyone to recommit to working together."
Congratulations @edwinpootsmla. Time now for everyone to recommit to working together.— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) May 14, 2021
Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “My key concern is that unionism, whatever the personalities, gets and remains wholly focused on the defeat of the union-dismantling NI Protocol.
“Neither spin nor bluster will do it. Rather, determined political actions whereby the protocol is no longer implemented but rendered unworkable is the only hope.”
Congratulations to @edwinpootsmla and Paula Bradley as they assume the leadership of @duponline.— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) May 14, 2021
We have huge challenges ahead as an Executive and our success will depend on our willingness to work together constructively for the common good.
I'm committed to playing my part.
Justice Minister and Alliance leader, Naomi Long, also tweeted out her congratulations. She said: "We have huge challenges ahead as an Executive and our success will depend on our willingness to work together constructively for the common good.
"I'm committed to playing my part."