Minister may be in line for Europe
Stormont minister Danny Kennedy could find a seat in the European Parliament under a future Ulster Unionist strategy, it has emerged.
The development comes as his party colleague, and long-standing MEP Jim Nicholson, is poised to confirm he wants to fight to retain his seat.
Mr Nicholson is expected to confirm that position on Thursday, and while the party is expected to endorse the move, there is growing speculation that Mr Kennedy could eventually take on the post later in the parliamentary term.
Mr Kennedy declined to make any comment on the matter and has previously underlined his commitment to his role as Regional Development Minister.
But party sources have said he could be in line to succeed Mr Nicholson.
Mr Nicholson was first elected to the European Parliament more than 20 years ago.
The party veteran is expected to confirm that he wants to take that experience into the next European election battle in 2014.
But while Ulster Unionists are privately discussing their long-term options, Sinn Fein is poised to announce an immediate change.
The party's MEP, Bairbre de Brun, is to stand down over ill health.
Sinn Fein has confirmed she will remain a senior party member, while her replacement is to be selected on Thursday, with the party's Martina Anderson most prominent among those floated as a potential replacement.