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Edwin Poots fails in attempt to get DUP’s nomination for the South Down constituency

Former DUP leader Edwin Poots has suffered a blow after he failed to be selected to go forward as a candidate for the party in the South Down selection process.

Diane Forsythe has been selected to run in the Assembly election in that constituency instead after party officers met on Friday night. 

The party said in a statement: “The DUP this evening selected Diane Forsythe to stand as the candidate for the party in the South Down constituency in the forthcoming Assembly election in May.

“The party is continuing with its selection processes and all selected candidates are subject to ratification by the Party Executive."

It comes as a snub to Mr Poots who last year became the party leader for a period of 21 days and is currently an Executive minister. 

Mr Poots whistled as he arrived in seemingly good spirits - with Ms Forsythe leaving shortly after his’ arrival.

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After two and a half hours inside the building, Mr Poots remained tight lipped as he exited with Gregory Campbell, Sammy Wilson and Peter Weir.

Lord Dodds and Gavin Robinson, the East Belfast MP, left soon after.

Meanwhile, the party in a statement also paid tribute to Jim Wells after his deselection. 

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said, “I have known Jim Wells for well over thirty-five years and have always admired his commitment to the Unionist cause. Jim has served his constituents in South Down faithfully. He has given a lifetime of public service and I look forward to seeing him making a further contribution to the party in the future."

Party chairman Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley said, “I want to pay tribute to Jim for his long and distinguished career in politics. I remember in the early days when Jim raised funds for the party and his enthusiasm for the Union inspired many around him. He was never a half measure man in anything that he put his hand to. I look forward to his contribution to the cause of the Union for many years to come.”

But sources close to Mr Wells said he was determined that it would not mark the end of his political career, saying ‘he won’t be going away quietly’.

Mr Wells declined to comment when contacted on Friday.

Former leader Arlene Foster congratulated Ms Forsythe on her selection. “So delighted for and proud of this woman. Congratulations ⁦,” she said. “Now for hard yards for which you are more than capable.”

The attempt to move constituencies by Mr Poots would have resolved a potential headache for the party with three of its most high profile party figures expected to stand in Lagan Valley.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has signalled his intention to return to Stormont and is expected to stand in Lagan Valley.

Another name expected to run in the five-seater constituency is Paul Givan, whose profile has recently been raised in his role as First Minister.

Mr Poots was elected as MLA for Lagan Valley in 1998, and was appointed minister of agriculture, environment, and rural affairs in January 2020, having previously held several other ministerial posts.

There were internal divisions within the DUP after Mr Poots was elected leader last May. Several members in the South Down constituency quit the party amid claims of a "purge" against those opposed to his leadership.

Ms Forsythe, her father Glyn Hanna, and another councillor, Kathryn Owen, were among those who left the party amid allegations of sexism and bullying. But Ms Forsythe and her father later returned after Sir Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Poots as leader.

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