Former Stormont minister and senior DUP MLA Mervyn Storey has not ruled himself out amid speculation he will be catapulted into the First Minister role by new DUP leader Edwin Poots.
A report in the Sunday Times newspaper suggested the north Antrim MLA was tipped to take over from Arlene Foster in the Stormont hot seat.
Contacted by the Belfast Telegraph on Sunday over the speculation, Mr Storey would only say: “This will be a decision for the party leader.”
Mr Storey served as Minister for Social Development in the Northern Ireland Executive from 2014 to 2016, moving to become Minister for Finance & Personnel.
His personal and family links with the DUP go back to his childhood; he worked in Rev Ian Paisley’s constituency office and — like newly-elected party leader Mr Poots — he is connected to the strong evangelical current that has been influential in the party since its formation 50 years ago.
As speculation surges around who the new DUP leader will slot into Ministerial positions at Stormont to deliver his political promise to undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol, south Belfast DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said the party will “unite around Edwin Poots and Paula Bradley” following the leadership battle between the Agriculture Minister and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, and said Arlene Foster remains his “friend”.
Mr Stalford was one of the first DUP MLAs to publicly declare his support for Edwin Poots’ leadership bid. He also said the party functions “as a family” and said members are “good comrades” and “good friends”, following accusations of possible party tension amidst the close final ballot between Edwin Poots and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
Speaking on BBC NI’s Sunday Politics programme, Mr Stalford also said former leader Arlene Foster was still his “friend”, despite admitting that he had not spoken to her since a letter of no confidence signed by the majority of the DUP saw her tender her resignation as leader of the party last month.
Mrs Foster said she planned to remain in her post as Northern Ireland’s First Minister until the end of June and will officially stand down as the leader of the DUP on May 28.
Incoming leader Edwin Poots has said he plans to consult internally within his party about whether Mrs Foster should stand down as First Minister earlier than her intended departure date.
“Arlene is my friend and I have always been very, very supportive of Arlene,” said Christopher Stalford. “I just felt it was a time for a change and that the party needed to change and that we needed to take a new direction. It was very difficult for me personally.
“I just felt we were heading in a direction I did not want us to go and it was time for a change at the top. I am really, glad that colleagues have rallied around Edwin’s positive vision for the party and the country.
“We are all good comrades we are all democratic unionists together and I hope that is the spirit which we can take the party forward...under Edwin’s new leadership,” Mr Stalford said.