Jim Wells speaks of ‘confused situation’ as Edwin Poots to stand for election in South Down

South Down MLA Jim Wells has hinted that he could still stand in the forthcoming Assembly election amid reports he has been deselected by the DUP, with former party leader Edwin Poots hoping to switch constituencies to Mr Wells’ area.

By Niall Deeney
Friday, 28th January 2022, 11:33 am

Mr Poots, who currently represents the competitive Lagan Valley constituency, is due to be interviewed by party officers on Friday night alongside a second potential candidate for South Down, it has been reported.

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

Mr Wells, a party member who has had a strained relationship with the DUP leadership over recent years having lost the party whip in 2018, has not been approved as a DUP candidate and has been deselected.

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PACEMAKER BELFAST 10/06/2021 Edwin Poots at Stormont

But Mr Wells has told the News Letter the situation is “confused” as he insisted the selection process has not yet finished.

“There’s a lot going on at the moment,” he said. “All is not as it seems, and there are a lot of meetings taking place today.

“I am hoping that, by tonight, I will be able to clarify what is going on.”

Asked to comment on reports that he had been deselected, Mr Wells said: “I didn’t expect that this morning. It’s a confused situation. There will be a series of meetings today to sort things out.”

He added: “The selection process is a long one and it’s not finished.”

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

Mr Poots, Stormont’s Agriculture Minister, will be 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.

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.

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.

The South Down contest 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.

After Sir Jeffrey Donaldson replaced him as leader, Ms Forsythe, Mr Hanna and Ms Owen returned to the party.