Doug Beattie to announce ‘fairly early on’ about UUP leadership run
Doug Beattie has hinted that he will make a quick decision on whether to enter the race to succeed Steve Aiken as Ulster Unionist leader.
Mr Aiken revealed on Saturday that he is standing down from the top role, saying he has taken the UUP as far as he can after 18 months in charge.
Mr Beattie, a military veteran, quickly emerged as the front runner, and said last night he would have discussions with friends and party members before deciding whether to stand.
In an interview with the News Letter, Mr Beattie, 55, stressed that now was not the time for someone to announce their intentions to take over.
He praised Mr Aiken for making the decision himself to stand down in order to “move the party forward”.
Mr Beattie, who was viewed as a leadership contender in 2019 before opting not to stand against Mr Aiken, said: “Steve has been very noble about this, very courageous and shown real morale courage.
“I think it’s right and it’s fair that we give Steve the time and the space to be able to resign before anyone jumps forward and says, ‘I’ll be the person to replace him’.
“As far as I’m concerned I’ll take soundings from my friends, from my colleagues, from party members, because it’s okay saying I want to be the leader of the Ulster Unionist, but do the Ulster Unionist Party want me as a leader?
“I will look at that over the next couple of days, but I’ll announce fairly early on whether I decide to stand or not.”
Former fireman Robbie Butler, the party’s chief whip, has also been linked with the top role.
The 49-year-old is a vocal campaigner on mental health issues and the party’s spokesman on education. Mr Aiken’s resignation came 10 days after DUP leader Arlene Foster announced that she was stepping down.
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