DUP turmoil | 

Outgoing DUP leader Edwin Poots insists ‘I’m absolutely fine, it’s a grand day’

Mr Poots would not say who he would be backing for the DUP leadership

Ralph Hewitt and Ben Tucker

Outgoing DUP leader Edwin Poots has broken his silence after resigning from the top job in the party on Thursday night.

The Lagan Valley MLA stood down as leader of the DUP after being ratified as Arlene Foster’s successor just three weeks ago.

Speaking for the first time since the shock announcement, Mr Poots told our sister publication the Belfast Telegraph outside his Lisburn constituency office on Friday, that he has “nothing to say” on who he will be backing as the new party leader.

Reflecting on his dramatic resignation, Mr Poots smiled and said: “I’m absolutely fine. It’s a grand day and I’m doing my constituency business here in Lisburn and I’m very glad to be doing that to serve my constituents.”

The Agriculture Minister will remain leader of the party until a successor is announced.

Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who shares a constituency office with Mr Poots, is the favourite after narrowly losing out to his Lagan Valley colleague in last month’s secret ballot by the DUP electoral college.

Mr Poots’ resignation came after one of the most damaging days in the DUP’s 50-year history.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced on Thursday morning that a deal had been reached to resolve the row over Irish language legislation.

However, before the Assembly met to hear nominations for the First and Deputy First Minister roles, splits within the DUP already appeared in a group party meeting in Stormont.

It is understood that only the party’s MLAs were invited but MPs Mr Donaldson, Gavin Robinson and Sammy Wilson turned up in what has been described as a heated meeting.

Mr Poots and Paul Givan then walked out midway through the meeting and during a speech by Mr Wilson to elect a new First Minister in the Assembly chamber.

The meeting then concluded with the majority of MLAs and MPs voting against the party nominating a replacement for Arlene Foster.

It is thought only three MLAs and MP Ian Paisley backed the leader with the vote finishing 24-4 against.

Following a crisis meeting in the DUP’s east Belfast headquarters on Thursday evening, Mr Poots released a statement outlining his decision to resign as party leader.

“I have asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process within the party to allow for a new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party to be elected,” he stated.

“The party has asked me to remain in post until my successor is elected.

“This has been a difficult period for the party and the country and I have conveyed to the chairman my determination to do everything I can to ensure both Unionism and Northern Ireland is able to move forward to a stronger place.”

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