Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Blue Peter beauty Zoe Salmon declines DUP request to run in Assembly election

By Claire McNeilly

The DUP approached television star Zoe Salmon to run as a candidate in the forthcoming Assembly elections, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The former Blue Peter presenter was earmarked by the party to contest East Belfast but declined, although it is understood that Ms Salmon is not averse to entering the political arena in the future.

With ex-First Minister Peter Robinson retiring, former Castlereagh councillor Joanne Bunting will join sitting MLAs Sammy Douglas and Robin Newton as the DUP candidates in the former leader's East Belfast constituency.

Ms Salmon, who is currently planning her wedding and has only recently finished work commitments in America, would not comment on the approach last night.

The 36-year-old actress and model got engaged to Co Down butcher William Corrie late last year and her busy schedule at present may well have influenced her decision to decline the DUP approach on this occasion.

It is understood she has been filming a television series in the US - the details of which are being kept under wraps - that will be broadcast in the UK in the coming months.

The 1999 Miss Northern Ireland is qualified as a solicitor having attained a 2:1 degree in law at Queen's University, Belfast.

Although she has never been directly involved in politics, the Bangor native has got herself embroiled in political rows several times over recent years.

In 2012 she sparked off a frenzied Twitter debate by calling for the Olympics athletics team to change its name from Team GB to Team UK, as the former appellation did not recognise Northern Ireland athletes' presence.

That same year she spoke out, again on social media, against the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall 365 days a year after Belfast City Council passed a vote stating it should only be flown on designated days.

In 2005, while presenting Blue Peter, Ms Salmon selected the Red Hand of Ulster symbol as a 'Best of British' airline logo.

Her choice led to a number of complaints being filed to the BBC, including one from sociology professor David Miller, who likened paramilitary use of the Red Hand to Nazi use of the swastika. The BBC was forced to apologise to those who complained - although the GAA defended her choice as a non-sectarian symbol.

There was even a furore after Ms Salmon made her first appearance on the BBC's flagship children's programme, with the corporation receiving complaints that her job had been advertised only in Northern Ireland, thus potentially discriminating against people with certain regional accents.

The BBC denied this and insisted the advert had been placed throughout the UK. Zoe, who is a huge fan of the monarchy, appeared in pantomine as Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Windsor at the end of last year.

Among the royals in the audience during one of the Bangor beauty's performances were Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.

She got engaged to the 30-year-old William from Newtownards during a romantic holiday on the Caribbean island of Barbados last November.

Shortly after he proposed - on his birthday on November 1 - Zoe told the Belfast Telegraph she was on "cloud nine" and she said that they hoped to marry in Northern Ireland some time this year.

A DUP spokesman said: "The party does not comment on speculation. Arlene and her 44 candidates are attracting support from all over Northern Ireland. We welcome supporters from every walk of life. Indeed, many people, attracted by Arlene's vision for Northern Ireland, are voting DUP for the first time."

Belfast Telegraph


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