UUP stalwart welcomes ‘new talent’ Jill Macauley taking over as party chairwoman

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Ulster Unionist stalwart Danny Kennedy has welcomed the appointment of councillor Jill Macauley as his replacement as party chairman.

Mr Kennedy, who replaced Sir Reg Empey as chairman in 2019, said the time was right for “new talent to come through,” and he particularly welcomed that a female would be taking on the important role.

Ms Macauley was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for South Down in the Assembly election earlier this month.

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She was announced as the new chairwoman at a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Party Executive held in Tamnamore on Saturday.

Jill Macauley with party leader, Doug BeattieJill Macauley with party leader, Doug Beattie
Jill Macauley with party leader, Doug Beattie

Mr Kennedy said he will “continue to be an active member of the party”.

“This was done at my behest... moving aside and letting new talent come through,” he told the News Letter.

“I have been in the party for 48 years and I have served at all levels. The party has to refresh and it has to renew itself.

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“We have an abundance in the party of young and able female members, and it is right that they are given an opportunity in positions of leadership and in positions of responsibility. I am hugely supportive of that.”

In a later party statement, Mr Kennedy said: “I want to thank everyone for the friendship and constructive criticism over two and half years.

“I particularly want to thank Doug and the previous leader Steve Aiken, party officers and staff.

“I will always regard it as a significant personal honour to have been asked to be party chairman.”

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He added: “I have known Jill for many years and she comes with an impeccable record of commitment and dedication to her community and party.”

Ms Macauley described her appointment as a “huge honour,” and added: “I have big shoes to fill following Danny’s decision to stand down. Danny is a person of the utmost character and integrity and I wish him all the very best for the future.

“I don’t think anybody appreciates the magnitude of the work that goes on behind the scenes to help guide this great party forward and I intend to bring the same commitment and dedication as Danny and his predecessors.”

Ms Macauley added: “My focus will be on growth, attracting new party members and females in particular. We need to select and elect more female representatives to reflect the modern Northern Ireland.

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“We are not where we want to be, but with a bit more focus and work we can get there.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie said: “I want to sincerely thank Danny for everything that he has done as chairman.

“He has always been loyal, available at all hours of the day and night and always acted in the best interests of the party. He has had to make difficult decisions and he has delivered those with dignity and compassion. He has been exceptional.

“I welcome Jill... as party chairwoman and I look forward to working with her. She is only the second female to fulfil this role and I will endeavour to give her all the support I can as we seek to drive forward and bring more females into frontline UUP politics.”

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Former party leader Steve Aiken also tweeted his congratulations, and added: Many thanks also to @DKennedy_UUP for all his hard work. Great to see #UlsterUnionist in such great hands & ready to continue towards our great future.”

Lurgan UUP councillor Louise McKinstry tweeted: “You deserve this Jill. You are thoughtful, articulate, honest and grounded. Just imagine what you can achieve. Well done.”