Belfast Telegraph

Kennedy to run for UUP leadership

The Ulster Unionists' sole minister in the Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed he will run for the vacant leadership of the party.

Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy is the first contender to throw his hat in the ring following the shock resignation of Tom Elliott last week.

"I have taken out nomination papers for the position of leader of the Ulster Unionist Party," the Regional Development minister said.

"And I intend to submit those papers." The UUP veteran said he would elaborate on his reasons for seeking the party's top job in the coming days.

Other potential candidates in the vote at the end of the month include deputy leader John McCallister, previous leadership contender Basil McCrea and former journalist turned MLA Mike Nesbitt. All have declined to rule themselves out of the race.

Mr Elliott's leadership was under mounting pressure but his decision to stand down had not been expected and he blamed internal opposition for his departure.

"I am aware that some people have not given me a fair opportunity at developing and progressing many initiatives," he said last week.

"Some of this obstruction and hostility began immediately following my election as leader and has been relentless since then. However I accept that is part and parcel of politics."

He sparked controversy over comments on the Gaelic Athletic Association and the gay community at the outset of his tenure.

The party is due to hold its annual meeting on March 31 to vote on who should take on the huge challenge of saving a struggling party which was once the dominant force in Northern Ireland politics, but is now without an MP at Westminster.

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