Special adviser to replace Jimmy Spratt as South Belfast MLA
One of Peter Robinson's circle of special advisers has been selected as the DUP's new MLA for South Belfast.
Emma Pengelly is taking over the seat vacated by Jimmy Spratt, who is retiring on health grounds.
The trained barrister, who served as a special adviser in the First Minister's office, is married to current permanent secretary of Stormont's department of health, Richard Pengelly.
The DUP said Mrs Pengelly also intends to contest the South Belfast seat at next year's Assembly election.
Mrs Pengelly said it would be an "incredible privilege" to serve the people of the constituency.
"I am determined to be a strong advocate for all the people of the constituency and help build on the foundation laid by Jimmy Spratt," she said.
"I wish him well in his retirement.
"South Belfast is a diverse constituency with some challenges but many more opportunities. I look forward to working with all sections of the community, including the large employers within the education and health sectors and the voluntary sectors, to continue to build a vibrant and strong economy and to ensure South Belfast remains a great place to live, study, work and visit."
Mr Robinson, who has temporarily stood down as First Minister amid the current political crisis, said: "I would like once again to pay tribute to Jimmy Spratt for his dedication and service both to the DUP and to the South Belfast constituency. I am delighted, however, that the constituency will have such a talented policy expert as Emma working on its behalf.
"She has worked very closely with many community and voluntary organisations over the last number of years, and in South Belfast she was instrumental in bringing forward the 'Urban Villages' programme which will help tackle dereliction within the Sandy Row/Donegall Pass area of the constituency. She will be a first-rate representative for South Belfast representing a new generation of talent within the DUP."
Mr Spratt said: "I have been involved in public service for my entire career and today marks a very significant milestone. Whilst I am sad to be leaving the Assembly I know that the constituency will be represented by someone with talent, enthusiasm and a wealth of fresh ideas to build into the future.
"Emma is someone who will make a mark not just in South Belfast but across Northern Ireland. On victims, community infrastructure and many key areas of government she is an expert on not just the legislation and the detail but on the practical application. I wish her and the party all the very best for the future."