Former DUP leader Edwin Poots has insisted that he “hasn’t gone away” after he failed to secure the party’s nomination to run in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in the South Down constituency.
Mr Poots also said that he had been engaged with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for two months on a process to ensure that the party leader could return to Stormont from Westminster at the elections in May.
On Friday night DUP party officers selected Diane Forsythe as the candidate for South Down ahead of Mr Poots, who was attempting to switch to the constituency from Lagan Valley.
I can assure you that my demise has just happened quite yet, the obituary writers need to put their pens downEdwin Poots
However, the decision still has to be ratified at a meeting of the party’s executive next week.
Jim Wells, the current South Down MLA, has previously indicated that he believes the decision of the party officers can be overturned and that Mr Poots, the current Agriculture Minister, could still be the candidate in the constituency.
Mr Poots hit out at those within the DUP who had leaked the details of the internal party selection processes to the media.
He told the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme: “I am engaged in a process, an incomplete process, for nomination to stand for the Assembly.
“Some very silly people, some irresponsible people, thought that they would leak elements of that process to the press.
“It was a very stupid thing for them to do and I don’t intend to engage in talking about an internal party process which is incomplete.”
He added: “I think there was a little excitement over the weekend and people were writing off Edwin Poots’ political career and they were getting a little carried away with themselves.
“I can assure you that my demise has just happened quite yet, the obituary writers need to put their pens down. Edwin Poots hasn’t gone away.”
When asked in which constituency he would like to run in the Assembly elections, Mr Poots said: “That is an internal party process, somebody else was foolish enough to leak an internal party process.
“Obviously they wanted to do me some harm. That wasn’t in my opinion very good form but I am not going to engage in the same type of tactics as the foolish individual that engaged in those tactics.”
Mr Poots’ decision to attempt to switch to the South Down constituency arose because the DUP currently faces an electoral headache in Lagan Valley with three of the party’s biggest names potentially running in the same constituency where it currently holds two seats.
Mr Poots and First Minister Paul Givan currently represent Lagan Valley, while party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will also seek a return to Stormont in the constituency.
Mr Poots said: “I engaged with Sir Jeffrey for two months on this issue.
“I want to facilitate the smooth transition for Sir Jeffrey to come back to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“Everything I have done I have been doing in the interests of the party.”
He added: “I feel let down that somebody went to the media in the middle of a process. If I knew who that person was I’d be seeking disciplinary measures to be taken.
“I will just get on with the work I have to do.”