Givan ‘confident’ DUP candidate will win after South Down party officers quit

Former first minister Paul Givan has said he is confident the DUP candidate in South Down will get elected – despite some of the party’s officers resigning to back a rival in the TUV.

Mr Givan said unionist people in South Down will recognise their candidate Diane Forsythe as the “best” for the area.

It comes as DUP officers in South Down quit the party to back the TUV’s Assembly election candidate running in the constituency.

Seven officers resigned to oppose Ms Forsythe. They are now backing Harold McKee.

Paul Givan said he was “sorry” to lose the party officers.

It comes weeks after veteran DUP representative Jim Wells resigned from the party and declared his support for Mr McKee.

Mr Wells, who was the DUP’s Assembly representative in South Down since 1998 and a former health minister, called on voters to give their first preference to Mr McKee on May 5.

Mr Givan said he was “sorry” to lose the party officers.

“I am confident, though, in South Down, the unionist community where they know there’s only one unionist seat. They know the risks of splitting their vote in that constituency and I believe that Diane Forsythe will get elected,” Mr Givan told BBC Radio Ulster.

“Because every vote for the DUP is going to matter, not just in South Down but it’s going to matter right across Northern Ireland so that we can pursue our progressive agenda whenever it comes to delivering at Stormont.

“I know a lot of the individuals and I count them as friends and indeed some of them that are in that photograph are Lagan Valley constituents, and I’ve been speaking to them in the run-up to this announcement and they are giving me their number one vote.

“So, I think, in other constituencies, individuals will be supporting the DUP and that’s what’s happening with some of those folks in South Down. But I am confident that the unionist people will recognise in South Down that Diane Forsythe is our best candidate to win for unionism.”