Incoming DUP leader vows to put women and young people in top team

Edwin Poots has vowed to promote female and younger DUP MLAs into senior roles in his new-look Stormont team.

Mr Poots said he wanted to see a “fresh injection” across party structures, reiterating a desire to encompass a broad range of voices in policy formation.

The Stormont Agriculture Minister reiterated that he would not be appointing himself as First Minister, though his use of the phrase “at this time” appeared to raise the prospect of that potentially happening at some point in the future.

“Certainly at this time, I will not be taking the First Minister’s position. Maybe never,” he said.

“But at this moment in time, my focus is on the party. And I think the focus of the First Minister should be exclusively on running the country at this stage.”

In terms of his desire to re-energise the DUP, he said: “There might have been a bit of staleness that had developed over the years, and we need a bit of a fresh injection.”

Mr Poots said he wanted his ministerial team and the holders of key committee roles to be reflective of the “wider community”.

“I want there to be generational change in the DUP,” he told the PA news agency.

“I want to see more women coming into politics in the frontline.

“I want there to be younger people coming into politics.

“And that’s something that I will help to drag forward.”

Asked if that would be reflected in the allocation of ministerial portfolios and committee chair and vice chair positions, Mr Poots said: “Absolutely.

“I think that one of the things that I’ll be doing is having a bit of freshness and bringing new people on and ensuring that the party is reflective of the wider community.”

Mr Poots will not be making any announcements on his new team until his election as leader is formally ratified by the party hierarchy at a meeting that is expected to take place next week.

The incoming leader also insisted many of the 17 people who voted for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in the leadership content were now fully behind his leadership and had indicated their willingness to work with him going forward.