In a brief statement on Friday night, a party spokesman said: ““The Democratic Unionist Party this evening selected Diane Forsythe to stand as the candidate for the party in the South Down constituency in the forthcoming Assembly election in May.
“The party is continuing with its selection processes and all selected candidates are subject to ratification by the Party Executive.”
It said: “The Officers of the Democratic Unionist Party wish to place on record their grateful appreciation to Mr Jim Wells MLA for his long and distinguished service to both the Party and the wider cause of Unionism over the last forty years.
“The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Party Leader, had an amicable and constructive meeting with Jim this afternoon.
“Jim was first elected to the old Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982 and has represented the South Down constituency as an MLA since 1998, having also held council seats in Lisburn, Banbridge and Down over the years.
“He has been a stalwart of the Democratic Unionist cause over many years and we want to thank him most sincerely for his dedication and service.”
Commenting the DUP Leader Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: “I have known Jim Wells for well over thirty-five years and have always admired his commitment to the Unionist cause.
“Jim has served his constituents in South Down faithfully. He has given a lifetime of public service and I look forward to seeing him making a further contribution to the party in the future.”
Party Chairman Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley said: “I want to pay tribute to Jim for his long and distinguished career in politics.
“I remember in the early days when Jim raised funds for the party and his enthusiasm for the Union inspired many around him. He was never a half measure man in anything that he put his hand to. I look forward to his contribution to the cause of the Union for many years to come.”
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