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Emma Little-Pengelly to be co-opted to Upper Bann assembly seat

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly, outgoing MP for South Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA

Emma Little Pengelly, who failed to be re-elected in south Belfast for the DUP, is expected to be co-opted into the assembly seat vacated by party colleague Carla Lockhart.

Ms Lockhart was comfortably elected in Upper Bann with 20,501 votes on Friday compared to closest rival Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd who secured 12,291.

Former DUP MP for the area since 2005, David Simpson stood down and was replaced with 34-year-old Ms Lockhart who has been an MLA for Upper Bann since the 2016 election.

Speaking after her victory, Ms Lockhart thanked God and her predecessor who she said she will lean on for guidance in the times ahead.

Ms Little Pengelly, a former SPAD to now retired party leader Peter Robinson, was expected to lose her seat in south Belfast, after both Sinn Féin and the Green Party stood aside for pro remain candidate the SDLP's Claire Hanna.

When the final votes were counted in the early hours of Friday morning it became clear that Ms Hanna would have been elected regardless of the pact, with the biggest majority in Northern Ireland, some 15,000 votes ahead of her nearest rival.

Ms Little Pengelly, originally from the Markethill area of Co Armagh, is considered one of the DUP's most savvy media performers and sources said last night that the party intend to parachute her into Mrs Lockart's seat.

She has previously served as an assembly member in South Belfast, succeeding Jimmy Spratt as MLA in 2015 following his retirement due to ill health.

In October 2015, she was appointed as a junior minister but lost her seat in the 2017 assembly election when the total number of seats in Belfast South was reduced from 6 to 5.

Meanwhile, party sources say DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, still smarting from his defeat to Sinn Féin's John Finucane, has told the party he will not be standing again in any future election.

Instead it is expected that Mr Dodds, who was educated at Cambridge and is popular with the Conservative Party hierarchy, will be called to the House of Lords and made a life peer.

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