A firm but friendly Edwin Poots can adopt a tough stance on the Irish Sea border

News Letter editorial of Saturday May 15 2021:

Saturday, 15th May 2021, 6:44 am
Updated Saturday, 15th May 2021, 7:33 am
News Letter editorial

Edwin Poots will now be the fourth Democratic Unionist Party leader in its 50 year history.

People across these islands will be wishing him well in the months and years ahead.

Mr Poots is caricatured for his religion by people who dislike traditional values or unionism or both, which reflects a growing intolerance of Christianity in some circles. Yet people who work with Mr Poots typically depict a broad minded, personable and pragmatic man.

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It will be a sadness to Mr Poots that his father, Charles, who helped found the DUP and who died last year, did not live to see his son become the party leader.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, gracious in defeat as you would expect from a man so courteous in his public appearances, will remain a hugely influential figure in the DUP and the political life of NI, as well as an ambassador for unionism.

The challenges facing Mr Poots are many, not least because of his narrow victory. His plan to split the DUP leadership from first minister poses difficulties, not least the matter of who he will make NI’s head of government.

If Mr Poots strikes a friendly tone, it will be easier for him to be firm on the Irish Sea border. The worst of all worlds would be to look tough but act weak on matters such as legacy and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

We warmly congratulate Mr Poots and his deputy Paula Bradley on their elections to lead the DUP, and wish them well at the helm of the biggest unionist party.

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Alistair Bushe