Belfast Telegraph

Diane Dodds selected to fill DUP’s vacant Upper Bann seat in Assembly

The wife of DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds will replace Carla Lockhart, who was elected as an MP for the constituency at the general election.

Diane Dodds is a Brexiteer (DUP)
Diane Dodds is a Brexiteer (DUP)

By David Young, PA

DUP MEP Diane Dodds has been selected to fill the party’s vacant Assembly seat in Upper Bann.

Ms Dodds will replace Carla Lockhart, who was elected as an MP for the constituency at the general election.

The Brexiteer MEP will lose her seat in the European Parliament when the UK leaves the EU next month.

The moves ended speculation on who might replace the Westminster-bound Ms Lockhart.

Ms Dodds’ husband and DUP deputy leader Nigel, who lost his North Belfast parliamentary seat in the election, had been seen as another potential replacement, as had Emma Little-Pengelly, who lost her South Belfast seat in the poll.

The immediate priority must be the restoration of the Executive and Assembly so that decisions can be made about our schools and hospitals Diane Dodds

The switch was confirmed as talks to restore the devolved institutions at Stormont were paused for Christmas. Negotiations broke up last week without a breakthrough. The UK and Irish governments both singled out the DUP as the party preventing a deal. The party insisted it would not be “bounced” into an agreement it did not consider fair and balanced.

Outgoing MEP Ms Dodds said: “I look forward to taking up my duties representing the people of Upper Bann in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Carla has been a first class advocate for the constituency. I will be working with the DUP team in Upper Bann to build on her reputation for delivery.

“After the United Kingdom exits the European Union, I will no longer be an MEP and will be a dedicated full-time representative for the people of Upper Bann.

“The immediate priority must be the restoration of the Executive and Assembly so that decisions can be made about our schools and hospitals. It is unforgivable that one party has been able to hold the whole of Northern Ireland to ransom for three years.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster added: “Diane will be a first class advocate for the people of Upper Bann and brings a wealth of experience to the post. Having served in Council, the Assembly and then for two terms as an MEP, Diane has a proven record of delivering for the people she represents.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster praised Ms Dodds (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Sinn Fein has blockaded devolution for three years therefore MLAs have not been able to do their job to the full. I look forward to seeing Diane, and the other MLAs, carrying out their full roles as legislators for the people of Northern Ireland in due course.”

Last week, the Alliance Party selected councillor Andrew Muir to replace deputy leader Stephen Farry as North Down Assembly member. The move came after Mr Farry won the North Down parliamentary seat in the election.

Mr Muir formally signed in as an MLA on Monday morning.

He designated as “United Community/European” under Assembly requirements to state community background.

He tweeted: “I am Northern Irish. I am British. I am Irish. I am European. Together we are stronger.

“Looking forward to serving everyone in North Down. Let’s do the deal and get Stormont back!”

Ahead of Christmas, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged the Stormont parties to finally settle their difference and restore powersharing.

The newly-elected Foyle MP said: “Christmas offers us a moment to reflect on the year that’s passing and how we, as political leaders, have sought to improve the lives of people across the North. This year, while parties have squabbled, life has become immeasurably more difficult for too many people.

“Our minds should be focused on the nurses and health service staff who will again give up Christmas with their families to care for those in need. They’ll do so under immense pressure and without pay parity this year. We can do better for them.”

He added: “January will mark three full years since the collapse of the Executive. We have an opportunity in this moment to restore not just the institutions of government but faith in the ability of parties to set aside their differences and act in the substantial common interests of those we represent. If this moment passes us by, it will be a long time before we get another.”

PA

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