Northern Ireland news

Retired British Army captain Doug Beattie battling to remain at UUP helm

first summit: Doug Beattie speaks at the UUP conference in Belfast last October

DOUG Beattie said he was the right person to “rekindle the fortunes” of the UUP when he threw his hat in the ring to become leader.

Less than a year on, the retired army captain (56) is fighting to remain at the helm of the party. He was born in Hampshire during the time his father was a warrant officer in the Royal Ulster Rifles.

The family settled in Portadown, Co Armagh, when he was 10. Mr Beattie followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Royal Irish Rangers aged 16 and serving in the military for around three decades.

He was first posted to Berlin, where he guarded Adolf Hitler’s former deputy Rudolph Hess in Spandau Prison. He later served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Northern Ireland.

Mr Beattie was awarded a military cross in 2006 for bravery during operations to retake the town of Garmsir in Helmand, Afghanistan.

He published his first book in 2008, An Ordinary Soldier, an account of the Garmsir mission and an insight into the relationship between British soldiers and the Afghans they served alongside.

His second book, Task Force Helmand, was published in 2010.

In retirement Mr Beattie entered politics, joining the UUP and being elected to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council in 2014. He became MLA for Upper Bann two years later. However, he failed to secure a seat at Westminster for his constituency in 2019, defeated by the DUP’s Carla Lockhart.

He was tipped as a potential leader in 2017 and 2019 but on both occasions supported other candidates – Robin Swann and Steve Aiken respectively – for the role.

Last May he announced he was putting his name forward to become leader, claiming he would be “able to reach out to all people in Northern Ireland regardless of what your religion is, sexual orientation or ethnicity”.

He was elected unopposed – but less than a year on, it is unclear whether that tenure will last much longer.

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