Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots odds on to be DUP leader

Edwin Poots
Staff Reporters

Edwin Poots looked to be in a strong position to take the DUP leadership last night as a second bookmaker made him the odds-on favourite.

Mr Poots yesterday declared himself a candidate, saying: "I am a proud Northern Ireland man, I love its people and its place and it faces many challenging times, it’s with that in mind, I’m putting my name forward for the leadership for the Democratic Unionist Party."

It was suggested last night that East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson may not let his name go forward and it may be a two horse race between constituency colleagues, Mr Poots and Lagan Valley MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Paddy Power rated Mr Poots as 4/7 to take the helm, while Mr Donaldson was 7/4. South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford was in third place at 12/1.

Read More: Who's in the running? DUP leadership contenders

There has never been an election for the DUP leadership.

It comes as one of the letters which led to the resignation of Arlene Foster was released. The letter from DUP councillors said they were concerned about the state of the party.

Calling for the departure of Mrs Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds, it stated: "We believe that the protocol needs to be overthrown. Abortion laws need to be repealed. The behaviour of Sinn Féin may not go unchallenged and we must return to the unionist and Christian values of our party."

An election could be called in the autumn if the assembly cannot agree a replacement for Mrs Foster after she steps down at the end of June.

The DUP will be asked to nominate a replacement within seven days and a vote will be held in the assembly.

If a replacement is not nominated, the Secretary of State must call an assembly election.

An election is scheduled for next year, but failure to agree a new first minister would bring this date forward.

With the assembly on its summer break, an autumn election seems most likely, if a first minister cannot be selected.

Meanwhile, the Irish News has learned that only one DUP backbencher failed to sign the letter which led to Mrs Foster's resignation.

The DUP leader's ministerial colleagues Diane Dodds, Peter Weir and Gordon Lyons refused to put their names to the letter, while South Antrim MLA Pam Cameron is also believed to have declined.

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