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Edwin Poots Is The New Leader Of The DUP

3 min read

Edwin Poots has been elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, succeeding Arlene Foster.

Poots, 55, was backed by a majority of the party's MPs and Northern Irish Assembly members over Jeffrey Donaldson, it was announced on Friday afternoon.

Poots received 19 votes, while Donaldson received 17. Paula Bradley was elected the DUP's new deputy leader.

Poots is the DUP's fourth leader and takes over at a pivotal time both for the party and Northern Ireland. He is not set be Northern Ireland's next First Minister, however.

His spokesperson said he wanted to continue in his current role of Minister of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs and let another DUP MLA lead the power-sharing government.

Diane Dodds, Mervyn Storey and Gordon Lyons are the seen as most likely options to replace Foster as First Minister, party sources told PoliticsHome. 

Foster last month announced she would resign as DUP leader as Northern Ireland's First Minister after a majority of the party's MPs, MLAs and peers supported a motion of no confidence.One of the biggest issues facing Poots is the Northern Ireland Protocol amid frustration among loyalist communities over how Brexit has impacted the province's relationship with Great Britain.

Poots fiercely opposes the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland and has been reluctant to implement the infrastructure required for border checks in his role as agriculture minister.

Under the Protocol, agreed as part of Brexit negotiations, Northern Ireland continues to follow swathes of EU rules in order to avoid a contentious hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

However, it has created trade barriers for British businesses sending goods to the province which iunionists say threatens Northern Ireland's place in the UK and are an affront to their identity.

Poots is also tasked with building momentum ahead of next year's assembly elections, with the DUP's support dwindling in recent opinion polls. He is expected to focus on winning back support lost to the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice, but faces losing more moderate voters to centrist party Alliance. 

Who is Edwin Poots?

Poots is a highly-experienced MLA who served as Stormont's health minister and minister for arts, culture and leisure before taking up his current role in the agriculture department.

He appeals to the fundamentalist wing of the party through his fiercely socially-conservative and evangelical views. He has described same-sex marriage as "abominable" and when Foster first became leader said her most "important job" was that of a "wife, mother and daughter". 

He is a young Earth creationist who believes the planet is 6,000 years old.

Speaking about the Big Bang and evolution in 2007, Poots said: "You’re telling me that cosmic balls of dust gathered and there was an explosion? We’ve had lots of explosions in Northern Ireland and I’ve never seen anything come out of that that was good."

However, DUP figures believe Poots can be pragmatic and prepared to put aside his hardline views to work with others.

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