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Trust me to run for DUP in South Down, Jim Wells urges Jeffrey Donaldson


Jim Wells

Jim Wells

Jim Wells

DUP MLA Jim Wells has warned the party leadership against creating a “west Tyrone” stand-off in his constituency of South Down.

The veteran Assembly member has had the backing of his party association but believes the leadership prefers another candidate to run in the expected Assembly election in April.

In private correspondence however, Mr Wells has warned against the creation of a similar situation which faced the Ulster Unionist Party in west Tyrone.

There was a local fall-out when Markethill man and former Dublin senate member Ian Marshall was selected as a candidate, with veteran councillor Bert Wilson among others complaining a more local contender had been ignored.

Mr Wells said he fully recognised the DUP’s method of a list of preferred candidates with its central executive committee and the final say down to party leader Jeffrey Donaldson as nominating officer.

But the ex-health minister also added: “They won’t want a UUP/West Tyrone situation to arise.”

Mr Wells found himself back in the political wilderness as a result of the sudden ousting as DUP leader of Edwin Poots.

The veteran politician had been hopeful Mr Poots could restore him to full membership after having the whip removed under Arlene Foster’s tenure.

Now it is just over three years since Mr Wells lost the party whip after claiming the then leadership had reneged on a promise to reinstate him.

He had stood down three years earlier in a row over claims he had linked child abuse to same-sex marriage — allegations of which he was cleared in a subsequent court case.

Mr Wells claimed the then leader Peter Robinson had pledged to reinstate him if he was cleared but Mr Robinson insisted he had given no such undertaking.

Mr Wells said: “This is a long process and the backing of my association does not in any way guarantee my eventual selection. There are others who have expressed an interest.

“There will no doubt be twists and turns between now and next May’s Assembly elections. There are several internal party procedures which have to be followed before I can stand as a candidate.”

A DUP spokesman said: “Party processes, as set down in our rules and constitution, are ongoing in relation to the selection of candidates. The meeting in South Down was a regular association meeting and is not connected to the candidate selection process.

“As these are internal party matters we do not give a running commentary nor have any further comment to make.”

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