Nine Ulster Unionists in race to replace MLAs

Five candidates are vying to replace Danny Kinahan as MLA for South Antrim
Five candidates are vying to replace Danny Kinahan as MLA for South Antrim

Five Ulster Unionist members have put their names forward to replace Danny Kinahan as MLA for South Antrim, while four people have entered the contest to replace Tom Elliott in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

The new MPs for South Antrim and Fermanagh-South Tyrone had pledged to give up their Stormont roles as soon as possible after last month’s election, and the selection process is expected to be complete by the end of this month.

Earlier this week, the News Letter reported that Antrim councillors Paul Michael and Adrian Watson have both put their names forward for the South Antrim position.

They have now been joined by Richard Kennedy, Jack Irwin and young Newtownabbey councillor Ben Kelso.

Mr Kennedy, the treasurer of the UUP’s South Belfast association, admitted that “as an incomer I’m going to suffer a disadvantage” but said that he represented “a new face of unionism” who would continue Mr Kinahan’s more liberal stance on issues such as gay marriage.

In Fermanagh-South Tyrone, it was known that two people – former Clogher Valley councillor Neil Somerville and Fermanagh councillor Robert Irvine – had put their names forward.

They have now been joined by victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson and Fermanagh councillor Rosemary Barton.

Mr Donaldson was Mr Elliott’s running mate four years ago and is now well-known as a victims’ campaigner.

Cllr Barton said that she had been a member of the UUP for about a decade and as a former teacher she would bring a particular interest in education to Stormont.

She said that there was a need for “a system that equally recognises the importance of both academic and vocational pathways”.