Doug Beattie : Some UUP members may not like my liberal credentials and may decide to leave the party

Ulster Unionist chairman Danny Kennedy has confirmed that Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie is the only candidate to have put his name forward for the leadership of the party.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 2:28 pm

The Upper Bann Assembly member will succeed the resigning Steve Aiken in the role after it was confirmed he was the only candidate to put his name forward for election

Party chair Mr Kennedy told a Stormont press conference that Mr Beattie, 55, was therefore deemed elected, subject to ratification by the party council on May 27.

Mr Beattie, who served as a soldier for 34 years and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in combat, promised a “progressive and unifying” agenda.

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Doug Beattie after he was confirmed as new Ulster Unionist leader. With him is UUP Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

“I feel the weight of expectation on my shoulder, we are an historic party, we are the party of (Edward) Carson and (James) Craig, but we are a modernising party and we are a party that wants to reach out,” he said.

“And we will do that by reforming our message, by reforming our party structures, by bringing in more females and more young people, making our policies better understood and more crystallised and reaching to everybody to say that this is Northern Ireland, a place that we all want to live in, and let’s all work together to be able to live here.”

He acknowledged that the party may have to “shrink to grow”, conceding that some traditional supporters may not be comfortable with his more liberal outlook.

“I feel the weight of expectation on my shoulder, we are an historic party, we are the party of (Edward) Carson and (James) Craig but we are a modernising party and we are a party that wants to reach out,” he said.

Doug Beattie after he was confirmed as new Ulster Unionist leader. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

“And we will do that by reforming our message, by reforming our party structures, by bringing in more females and more young people, making our policies better understood and more crystallised and reaching to everybody to say that this is Northern Ireland, a place that we all want to live in, and let’s all work together to be able to live here.”

Mr Beattie said he would reach out to more conservative UUP members to assure them they have “nothing to fear” from his leadership. But he acknowledged that some may ultimately choose to leave the party.

“As the Ulster Unionist Party leader I want to grow and sometimes they say you have to shrink in order to grow and if I have to shrink to grow, that is exactly what I will do,” he said.

“But we will look for policies that are progressive. We will look for uniting people, we will look for a union of people over the coming months and the coming years. And we will make Northern Ireland work.”

Doug Beattie

He added: “There will be clearly some people within my party, I’m not talking about necessarily elected representatives, but there may be people who are members who do not like my liberal credentials. Some people may just not like Doug Beattie they may not like my style of leadership. And if that’s the case, they may decide that ‘I don’t want to follow Doug Beattie as a leader, I may wish to go elsewhere’.

“In which case, I have to accept that. And I may have to shrink. But there are people out there who have got very conservative values – it’s really important on me and it’s a function of leadership for me to reach out to those people who’ve got conservative values and say ‘you have nothing to fear from Doug Beattie. In fact, I will tread a path to make sure that your voice is heard and I will never denigrate your opinion’.

“But some no matter what I say may not wish to follow me and that’s where we may have to shrink slightly.”