Northern Ireland’s first minister, Paul Gevan, said the DUP’s long-term deputy Jeffrey Donaldson has his full support if he chooses to run for party leadership.
Mr. Donaldson is expected to announce his intention to run for party leadership today.
Jeevan said he spoke to Mr Donaldson over the weekend, describing him as a “fantastic politician” who “has a lot to offer for Northern Ireland”.
“I spoke to Jeffrey Donaldson at the weekend, I encouraged him to come up with his name, and if he did, he would have my full support,” he said.
Mr. Jeevan was speaking on his first official engagement as First Minister since taking office last Thursday.
– Laura Hogan (@LauraHoganTV) June 21, 2021
The process of electing a new leader began at the end of the week, Following the sudden resignation of Edwin Potts last Thursday.
Interested candidates must submit their intention to run for the leadership election in writing by midday tomorrow. However, no one is expected to contest Donaldson.
If he is the only candidate, Mr. Donaldson could be announced as the new leader of the DUP as early as tomorrow, and formally ratified at a party executive meeting early next week.
However, should there be more than one candidate, the party’s electoral college of 36 MLAs and MPs will cast their votes on Saturday.
Donaldson narrowly lost to Potts last month by 19-17, in the party’s first leadership contest in its 50-year history.
That competition was sparked by an internal rebellion against former leader and first minister Arlene Foster.
This latest election also comes on the heels of the ouster of her successor, Mr. Potts, from within the DUP.
His resignation came after only 21 days in office, the shortest leadership period in the party’s history.
Mr Potts last week appointed fellow constituency Mr. Jeevan to become first minister, after agreeing a deal with Sinn Féin to re-enter Stormont’s power-sharing.
However, party officers have now told Jeevan that he will have to step down once a new leader is appointed.
His resignation will once again trigger a seven-day countdown for the PYD and Sinn Fein to re-nominate their choices for the role of first minister and first deputy minister.
Today, Mr. Jeevan said his personal feelings are secondary to the needs of people in Northern Ireland.
He said the party now had a process in place and needed to be given space to work through that process and to form a new leadership team.
He said his focus is on ensuring effective government and stability.
Paul Gevan did not disclose any details of the talks that have taken place within his party since last Thursday, nor did he say when he intends to step down as first minister.
“I had conversations over the weekend with various individuals,” he said, adding, “I will have conversations with our leadership team in due course.”
He said the exact date would form part of those discussions “in the coming days and weeks”.
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