Northern Ireland

DUP will not stand in Fermanagh and South Tyrone or North Down

Gavin Robinson makes announcement after being ratified as DUP leader

Naomi Long said said she expects a ‘very close race’ in East Belfast against the now DUP leader Gavin Robinson
DUP leader Gavin Robinson. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Newly ratified DUP leader Gavin Robinson has confirmed his party is supporting the UUP General Election candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and independent candidate Alex Easton in North Down.

Mr Robinson, who is defending his East Belfast Westminster seat in July’s election, was ratified as DUP leader on Wednesday following a meeting of the party’s ruling executive.

He had been serving as interim DUP leader since the beginning of April when former leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigned from the party after being charged with historical sexual offences.

Mr Robinson revealed his party would not be standing in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and would be backing UUP candidate Diana Armstrong.

Ulster Unionist Fermanagh-South Tyrone candidate Diana Armstrong.

The DUP had previously suggested fielding a pro-union unity candidate, which the UUP rejected.

Mr Robinson told party colleagues: “In truth, the DUP is the largest unionist party in North Down and Fermanagh South Tyrone, having outpolled other parties in both the Assembly and local Government elections in 2022 and 2023.”

“We recognise that in the interests of working collectively to secure pro-union Members of Parliament we want to lead by example and as the leaders of unionism we are unilaterally announcing the following:

“In North Down we will not field a Democratic Unionist and we endorse Alex Easton, who is in our view a candidate with a strong and dedicated zeal for North Down, and who has a track record of being best placed to unite pro-union voters in the cause of winning in North Down.

“The Ulster Unionist Party selected Erne North Councillor Diana Armstrong as their candidate and they have made clear that they do not intend to withdraw their candidate from the election,” he said.

“On that basis and in the interests of trying to win the seat for a unionist candidate we have decided not to field a DUP candidate for this election only and we would encourage all unionists in the constituency to set aside internal unionist debate and vote for the Ulster Unionist candidate in the interests of returning a pro-union member of parliament.”

Meanwhile, Mr Robinson said he looked forward to serving as leader “with honour, humility and commitment”.

He added he wanted to “fight to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom, including removing the application of EU law in our country and the internal Irish Sea Border it creates”.

“The beauty of Northern Ireland in 2024 is that there are people who are British and proudly Northern Irish,” he said in his speech following ratification.

“There are people who are Irish and proudly Northern Irish. There are people who are just Northern Irish.

“Our challenge as the Party for Northern Ireland is to make sure everyone feels at home here.”