The Ulster Unionists have selected Rodney McCune as their Assembly candidate for what they predict will be a ”bitter” fight in South Belfast.
Mr McCune, who ran unsuccessfully for Westminster last year, has been selected to run in place of long-time MLA Michael McGimpsey, who is standing down.
Mr McCune is a qualified barrister who worked as a special advisor to former DRD Minister Danny Kennedy.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt predicted that the campaign in South Belfast could descend into “bitter in-fighting between unionist foes who were former friends”.
“Rodney McCune is a more than worthy successor to Michael McGimpsey as an Ulster Unionist representative in South Belfast and I commend him wholeheartedly to the voters of the constituency.
“Rodney’s commitment is beyond question. He gave up a very successful legal career in London to return to his native Northern Ireland to pursue a career in politics. He and his wife chose South Belfast for what has become a family home and in recent times, he has developed a firm grasp of the issues and needs of the people.
“In what some fear will be a South Belfast Assembly campaign that descends into bitter in-fighting between unionist foes who were former friends, Rodney represents a common sense, moderate, progressive voice capable of representing the full range of voters in a very mixed, diverse constituency.”
Mr McCune said: “I am naturally delighted to have been selected to contest South Belfast at the forthcoming Assembly elections. Given Michael McGimpsey’s excellent representation over so many years, following him is both a privilege and a huge challenge.”
“I will be on the doorsteps in the coming weeks offering change and outlining my positive vision for South Belfast. I will be offering forward thinking Unionism and representation that will be attractive to the many not just the few.
“Most importantly of all however, I will be offering voters hard work. I have over a decade of experience representing people and their interests outside politics, and I intend to take that grounding and experience with me into frontline politics.
“South Belfast is going to be quite a contest at this election and I am very much looking forward to it.”
Mr McGimpsey has given Mr McCune his backing as his successor. He said: “I am delighted that Rodney McCune has been selected. Rodney is the right man for South Belfast. He is a professional and will work hard for all the people. He`s energetic, bright and articulate and if elected, the people will have a hard working MLA who will be a major asset to the constituency of South Belfast and the Ulster Unionist Party.”