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Edwin Poots 'likely' to face competition from Jeffrey Donaldson for DUP top job

A source close to the Lagan Valley MP told the News Letter that he could contest the election.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

JEFFREY DONALDSON, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for Lagan Valley, is likely to run against Edwin Poots for the party’s leadership, the Belfast News Letter has reported today.

If Donaldson does throw his hat into the ring following Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster’s departure, it will trigger the first openly contested leadership election in the party’s history.

Northern Ireland agriculture minister Edwin Poots is the frontrunner to replace her as leader after announcing his candidacy on Thursday.

But Poots, who represents Lagan Valley in Stormont, is now likely to face competition from Donaldson.

“A source with knowledge of Sir Jeffrey’s thinking told the News Letter that he was likely to run,” the newspaper’s political editor Sam McBride reported this morning.

DUP chief whip Donaldson, a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party, joined the DUP along with former UUP Assembly members Foster and Norah Beare in 2004.

The trio left the UUP over disagreements with party leader David Trimble and their departure significantly strengthened the DUP’s political foothold at the time.

He has served as MP for Lagan Valley since 1997 and as DUP shadow spokesperson on business in the House of Commons since 2015.

But at least six DUP politicians have already publicly endorsed Poots for leader in recent days.

“Including himself, that means that he already has seven votes – 40% of the way to the figure of 18 which will give him the DUP’s top job,” according to McBride.

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Foster confirmed this week that she plans to step down as DUP leader on 28 May.

She said she would wait until she stands aside as First Minister at the end of June before outlining her intention on whether she will leave the party altogether.

Foster’s resignation came a day after party colleagues unhappy with her leadership moved against her, with a majority of senior elected representatives signing a letter of no confidence. 

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