Former Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy is putting his name forward to be the party’s candidate in next month’s European election, the News Letter can reveal.
Making the announcement within an hour of veteran UUP MEP Jim Nicholson confirming that he will not be standing again, Mr Kennedy said that he believed that he had the necessary experience to succeed Mr Nicholson as Northern Ireland’s third MEP.
Mr Kennedy paid tribute to the retiring Mr Nicholson, describing him as “an outstanding MEP not just for the Ulster Unionist Party, but for Northern Ireland”.
Mr Kennedy, a traditional Ulster Unionist figure who was well-regarded across the political divide at Stormont, lost his seat as a Newry and Armagh MLA in the 2017 snap Assembly election. In the wake of that shock defeat, he spoke personally about how as a middle-aged man who had been involved in politics for decades he found it difficult to get a job and found himself applying for the dole at a benefits office which he had last attended on an official engagement as a Stormont minister.
Since then, Mr Kennedy has been working for a Troubles victims’ group.
The former Stormont regional development minister told the News Letter: “I want to confirm that it’s my intention to seek nomination from my party and stand as its candidate in the forthcoming EU election.
“Obviously, there will be a process involved in that but I want to indicate now that I will be submitting an application to be considered for selection.”
Prospective UUP candidates have until Wednesday afternoon to apply to be the candidate.
A selection meeting of the party executive will be held on Saturday morning in Templepatrick’s Hilton Hotel to decide on the candidate.
Mr Kennedy said that he had voted remain in the EU Referendum but, as with Mr Nicholson, he believed that “the verdict of the UK public was clear and I support the verdict of the electorate being implemented”.
Mr Kennedy, who served 25 years as a councillor, said that he had not put his name forward for the local government elections next month because he was “very satisfied that the talent available within the UUP meant that there was no need for me to consider local government”.