First runner in DUP leadership election of vintage party stock

NI powersharing talks
NI powersharing talks (PA Archive)
18:37pm, Thu 29 Apr 2021
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The first candidate to announce their bid to become the next leader of the DUP comes from vintage party stock.

Edwin Poots’ father, the late Charlie Poots is attributed as one the founding members of the party alongside the late Ian Paisley senior in 1971.

His son followed in his footsteps, starting his political career on Lisburn City Council and was later elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.

Funding for theatre (PA Archive)

Since then, Mr Poots has held four ministerial portfolios – culture, environment, health and is currently agriculture minister.

His current job could be regarded as a comfortable fit for the Lisburn man who comes from a farming background, however the role became less so at times as the minister with responsibility for implementing the checks required under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

2021 has also been a challenging year for Mr Poots personally having received a diagnosis of kidney cancer, discovered by chance when he underwent surgery on a burst appendix before Christmas.

He briefly stepped aside from his ministerial portfolio in February, however was back at his desk following a successful operation by early March.

Identified as coming from the more hardline/religious fundamentalist wing of the party, Mr Poots also has a reputation of enjoying good working relationships.

He raised chuckles in the Assembly chamber earlier this month in a fond tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh when he told MLAs he empathised with how “attempts at humour could become gaffes”.

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“The duke was known for his sharp mind, for his wittiness, and sometimes that got him into trouble so his quips could become gaffes … and as someone who does that occasionally myself, I can appreciate the quandary that he finds himself in, you want to engage with people and you want to lighten an atmosphere and sometimes it just doesn’t work right,” he told MLAs.

Amid the recent rumblings of discontent against outgoing DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mr Poots made little secret of his political ambitions and has long been seen by many as the leading contender to replace her.

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