Robin Swann to make UUP leadership bid following Mike Nesbitt resignation
Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has announced he will contest the UUP's leadership election following Mike Nesbitt's resignation.
Mr Swann made the announcement in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday.
He said: "I can confirm that I have submitted papers today to seek election as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, after receiving support from across the Party including members of our Westminster, Assembly and Local Government teams and I look forward to our Annual General Meeting on the 8th of April."
Mr Swann is a veteran party member and is seen as representing the more conservative wing of the UUP.
The 45-year-old father of two was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011 and he represents North Antrim.
While only senior elected DUP politicians - MPs, MLAs, and the party's MEP - could vote in its leadership contest in December 2015, every UUP member is free to attend the party's annual general meeting and vote.
That gathering will be held on April 8 at an as yet undisclosed venue. Much will depend on how individual candidates perform on the day in terms of making their pitch.
Mike Nesbitt resigned as leader of the UUP earlier this month admitting that the party's disastrous Assembly election performance was "not good enough" and so "the buck stops here".
The Strangford MLA announced his departure as UUP chief as the election results rolled in and it became increasingly clear the party had taken a major hit.
The UUP went from holding 16 seats in a 108-seat Assembly (14.8% of MLAs) last year to 10 seats in a 90-seat parliament (11.1% of MLAs). It was also demoted to being the fourth largest party after being overtaken by the SDLP.
Combined unionist losses in the election meant that for the first time unionists were not a Stormont majority.
The former Victims Commissioner and broadcaster was strongly criticised by fellow unionists - including some within his own party - for revealing he would be giving his second preference vote to the SDLP in his constituency, rather than another unionist.
The UUP is now the fourth biggest party in Northern Ireland, having been overtaken by the nationalist SDLP.