Northern Ireland news

Nominations for next UUP leader open today

Outgoing Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken (left) with Doug Beattie, who is seen by many within the party as the likely successor. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

NOMINATIONS for the next leader of the UUP leader will open today, the party has announced.

It came after the Ulster Unionist Party Executive met last night to agree the process for the selection of a new leader after Steve Aiken formally resigned on Monday.

Mr Kennedy last night thanked Mr Aiken for his work as he confirmed that nominations would open today and close on May 17.

"On behalf of the party executive I express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Steve Aiken for his work and commitment as party leader," he said.

His dedication to duty, his integrity and decency has been impeccable.

"The entire party wish Steve, his wife Beth and his family well for the future.

"The party executive unanimously agreed the next steps to select Steve`s successor.

"Nominations for the role of party leader will open at 9am on Wednesday 12 May 2021 and will close at 12 noon on Monday 17 May 2021.

"After nominations close the situation will be reviewed and a further announcement will be made."

Announcing his resignation at a press conference in the Great Hall at Stormont, Mr Aiken was flanked by MLAs Doug Beattie and Robbie Butler, the two men who have been tipped to replace him.

Mr Beattie, a former Army captain, is the only declared candidate so far to replace him.

The Upper Bann MLA yesterday said if he was elected leader he hoped to attract nationalist voters, but ruled out support for an Irish Language Act.

Lagan Valley MLA and former firefighter Mr Butler is thought also to be considering a bid to be new UUP leader.

Mr Aiken's resignation came 10 days after DUP leader Arlene Foster was forced to quit following an internal party move against her.

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