Edwin Poots begins attempt to switch constituency for Stormont election

Former DUP leader Edwin Poots will try to switch constituencies in the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

By Jonathan McCambridge and Mark Rainey
Friday, 28th January 2022, 7:33 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th January 2022, 7:35 am

A party source has confirmed that Mr Poots, a current Lagan Valley MLA, will instead try to secure a seat in the South Down constituency.

Mr Poots, Stormont’s Agriculture Minister, was interviewed by party officers as part of the selection process on Friday evening, along with another candidate, Diane Forsythe.

Ms Forsythe is a former Westminster election candidate for the DUP and the daughter of a party councillor, Glyn Hanna.

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Former DUP leader Edwin Poots. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Mr Poots arrived at Dundela House, the DUP party headquarters in East Belfast, just before 6pm.

Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had arrived earlier, accompanied by East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson.

Mr Poots left shortly before 8pm without speaking to the media.

Mr Poots’ attempt to move constituencies comes ahead of a potential electorate headache for the DUP. Three of its most high profile party figures had been expected to stand in Lagan Valley.

Edwin Poots

The party currently holds two seats in the constituency, belonging to Mr Poots and Stormont First Minister Paul Givan.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has signalled his intention to return to the Northern Ireland Assembly and is also expected to be a candidate in Lagan Valley.

A party source said the veteran current DUP MLA for South Down, Jim Wells, has not been selected as a candidate for May’s elections.

The South Down contest between Mr Poots and Ms Forsythe could risk reopening divisions within the party from last year.

After Mr Poots was elected DUP leader last May, several members in the South Down constituency quit the party amid claims of a “purge” against those opposed to his leadership.

Ms Forsythe, her father Mr Hanna, and another councillor, Kathryn Owen, were among those who left the party amid allegations of sexism and bullying.

However, Mr Poots’ leadership was to last only three weeks before an internal party revolt forced him to quit.

Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson arrived earlier, accompanied by East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson.

Mr Poots is a current Lagan Valley MLA and a former party leader.

Earlier on Friday, current DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells hinted that he could still stand in the forthcoming Assembly election amid reports he has been deselected.

Mr Wells has had a strained relationship with the DUP leadership over recent years having lost the party whip in 2018.

Last month he told the News Letter that he had the “unanimous” backing of the South Down constituency association to go forward as the DUP candidate in the May election.

However, one long-standing member of the association contacted the News Letter to dispute that claim, saying those in attendance at a meeting were a “select few” supporters of Mr Wells, with all dissenting voices excluded.