Northern Ireland news

DUP MLA was threatened by UDA during party leadership campaign, Jim Wells claims

DUP MLA Jim Wells. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

A DUP MLA was threatened by the UDA and told not to vote for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson during the party's leadership campaign, South Down MLA Jim Wells has claimed.

At a meeting to ratify new leader Edwin Poots last week, it was alleged that the UDA had threatened members of Sir Jeffrey's team.

It later emerged that police are looking at a text sent to DUP councillor Philip Brett, who was Sir Jeffrey's campaign manager, and a Facebook message sent to former DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly, a special adviser to ex-DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Mr Wells told Radio Ulster's The Nolan Show yesterday that an MLA who supported Sir Jeffrey was threatened but insisted it did not change the leadership result.

He declined to name the MLA.

"It was an MLA, but that MLA brushed that aside and continued to support his preferred candidate," he said.

"So it didn't actually change the result. No one changed their vote as a result of that approach."

Meanwhile, Paul Givan, who is tipped to be the DUP's pick for first minister, has said an email from Mr Wells urging the party's South Down association to rally around Mr Poots was not endorsed by the party leader.

Some members of the association have threatened to resign after receiving the email.

"None of that came from Edwin Poots or the people around him," Mr Givan told the BBC.

"Edwin has been working very hard over the past week, as have other colleagues, recognising that there needs to be a coming together.

He added: "Ultimately within the DUP we have strong personalities and people have strong views and that's a good thing, it's healthy within a party."

Ian Knox cartoon 4/6/21 

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