Edwin Poots defiant after scathing assessment from Sammy Wilson

An internal DUP row over which Assembly election candidate will stand in South Down has taken another twist, with Edwin Poots rejecting claims made by senior party colleague Sammy Wilson.

By Mark Rainey
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:05 pm

Current Lagan Valley MLA Mr Poots – who is attempting to switch to South Down – has suggested he could still be the DUP’s sole candidate there as the choice made by the party officers has not yet been ratified.

Last Friday, the DUP announced that Diane Forsythe had been chosen as the party’s South Down candidate for the May election.

That led to the deselected DUP MLA for South Down, Jim Wells, expressing support for Edwin Poots – claiming Mr Poots had a 70% chance of having the original decision overturned in his favour when the party’s ruling executive meets to ratify all of the DUP candidates put forward.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson. Parliament TV image

In a statement on Wednesday night, Sammy Wilson suggested that Mr Poots was wasting his time seeking the South Down nomination.

Mr Wilson said “As a party officer, I was amongst those who interviewed both candidates seeking the DUP nomination for South Down. Diane was by far the best candidate. Her track record speaks for itself.

“She obtained the largest ever DUP vote in South Down when she contested the 2017 Westminster election.

“All across the constituency, her selection has been positively received. As someone who is well connected locally and is passionate about her home area, we were delighted to endorse a candidate of Diane’s calibre.

DUP South Down candidate Diane Forsythe

“Diane is both the party officers’ and the party leader’s choice for South Down. Even her political opponents have admitted that she is the best candidate the DUP could have put forward.”

Mr Wilson added: “It is disappointing that Edwin has not accepted the decision, especially because he has a seat of his own which he is free to contest and there are other vacant places available which he could have chosen and is still free to choose if he so wished.

“Any executive challenge would not result in Edwin replacing Diane as the candidate in South Down. The matter would simply be deferred to those officers and the leader, who have already expressed their view on who the best candidate is.”

Mr Poots has previously stated he decided to put his name forward for South Down following discussions with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

“Sammy wasn’t with Jeffrey and I whenever those conversations took place, so he wouldn’t be able to offer a view on it that would be consistent with facts,” he told the Nolan radio show on Thursday.

Commenting on his DUP colleague’s claim that the party leader supported the selection of Diane Forsythe, Mr Poots said: “I have no evidence of that, I’m not aware of that, Jeffrey hasn’t said it.”

Asked if he had made a final decision on giving up his Lagan Valley seat – thereby increasing his party’s leaders chances of election to Stormont – Mr Poots said: “That remains to be seen. This should never have been in the public domain.

“Anything I have done thus far is to try to facilitate a smooth transition for Jeffrey and that is what we are going to continue to work on.”

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