DUP leadership election result: Edwin Poots appointed First Minister

Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots has been elected leader of Northern Ireland's governing Democratic Unionist Party after defeating his more pragmatic challenger, Jeffrey Donaldson, in a secret ballot of party lawmakers in Belfast.

The protocol leaves Northern Ireland within the EU's trading sphere, avoiding a hard border on the island with EU-member Ireland but infuriating pro-British unionists by undermining the region's place in the United Kingdom.

Mr Poots, the Stormont Agriculture Minister, said it was "an huge honour" to be chosen for the role, having beaten the party's Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17.

"As far as I know both Edwin and Jeffrey were committed to ensuring that when we chose a First Minister that it would not simply be the personal patronage of whoever became leader and it would be a party decision".

The DUP politicians eligible to vote comprised the party's eight MPs and 28 Assembly members.

"The Northern Ireland protocol has proven to be a massive challenge for us and if we are to fight this, to ensure that everybody in Northern Ireland is not worse off as a effect of the protocol then it is for us to do that together", Poots said after being elected.

Mr Poots will be leader designate until Mrs Foster formally stands down.

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Poots insists he must focus on strengthening his party's public appeal ahead of Assembly elections scheduled for May 2022.

They will also want to unite unionism which is in such turmoil that the leader of the second largest pro-union party, the UUP, has also stepped down.

"I think Jeffrey has qualities that take him beyond Northern Ireland and across to the mainland", he said, adding: "I think those are statesman-like qualities that the party needs".

"It's a party that my dad founded with the name democracy in it and this is a democratic decision", he said.

He is one of a number of DUP ministers who have protested against the Brexit arrangements by refusing to attend meetings with Irish counterparts established under the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

There are three candidates in the running to be deputy leader.

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