Edwin Poots elected as new DUP leader

Edwin Poots has been elected as the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Stormont Agriculture Minister Mr Poots was vying with the party’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to replace Arlene Foster, who announced her resignation last month.

The Lagan Valley MLA won by a razor-thin 19 votes to 17 in the poll carried out within the party’s 36-strong electoral college.

It was the first contested leadership vote in the DUP’s 50-year history.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Poots, who recently underwent cancer surgery, pledged that the DUP would be the “authentic voice” for unionism under his leadership.

“It is an immense honour and pleasure to stand here today in this position, it is not a position that I expected to be in some weeks ago,” he said in an address at party headquarters in east Belfast.

“However, things can change quite radically.”

DUP leadership
Edwin Poots after voting in the party’s leadership election (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Poots added: “I’m looking forward to a positive relationship right across Northern Ireland with my party colleagues and indeed with people from other parties.

“I think the opportunities for Northern Ireland are great, the opportunities for us to make Northern Ireland a great place after this 100 years has passed and we move into a new 100 years.”

Mr Poots praised the “resilience” of Northern Ireland people through the first 100 years of its existence.

“It’s that resilience that we are going to go forward (with) and make Northern Ireland a good place,” he said in an address at party headquarters in east Belfast.

“My father was a founder member of the DUP some 50 years ago, and I joined after the death of the Reverend Robert Bradford MP in 1981 and throughout all of that period this party has been the authentic voice of unionism and will continue to be the authentic voice of unionism under my leadership.”

Mrs Foster was ousted after an internal heave by party colleagues unhappy with her leadership and will step down from that role on May 28, and as Stormont First Minister at the end of June.

Mr Poots will be leader designate until Mrs Foster formally stands down. His election will now go to the party executive for ratification.

The DUP politicians eligible to vote comprised the party’s eight MPs and 28 Assembly members.

The voting by way of secret ballot took place at the party headquarters through Friday afternoon.

Ahead of the vote, Sir Jeffrey and Mr Poots made final pitches for support in a virtual hustings event on Friday morning.

Paula Bradley was elected the party’s new deputy leader. She defeated Gregory Campbell by 18 votes to 16.