POLITICAL leaders across Ireland and Britain have sent messages congratulating Edwin Poots, who has been elected the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Mr Poots will replace outgoing leader Arlene Foster after beating MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17 in the DUP leadership election.
MLA Paula Bradley was also elected as the party's deputy leader, beating MP Gregory Campbell, as the results were announced yesterday.
In a speech made following his win, Mr Poots said it was an honour to be selected for the top post within the party, which he has been a member of for all of his political career.
“It is an immense honour and pleasure to stand here today in this position, it is not a position that I expected to be in some weeks ago. However, things can change quite radically,” he said.
Currently Agriculture Minister in Stormont, Mr Poots previously courted controversy as health minister in 2011, when he maintained a ban on blood donation from gay men that had been lifted in England, Scotland and Wales
In yesterday’s speech he said he was looking forward to a "positive relationship right across Northern Ireland with my party colleagues and indeed with people from other parties".
"I stand here very proud to be taking up the mantle as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and that brings with it a responsibility to all of unionism," he added.
“I will be a leader in unionism who will be reaching out to other leaders in unionism. I want to see unionism working together."
He also indicated that he would continue to fight the Northern Ireland Protocol, which places a border down the Irish Sea, adding that it has proven to be a "massive challenge for us".
Political leaders across the UK and Ireland reacted to Mr Poots' win via social media.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his congratulations, saying: “People across the UK are best served when we work together."
He added that he "looked forward to working with Mr Poots".
People across the UK are best served when we work together, & I look forward to working with him, @BrandonLewis & the wider Executive as we build back stronger for the people of Northern Ireland.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 14, 2021
SDLP leader and MP for Foyle Colum Eastwood also tweeted his congratulations to Mr Poots, while stating it is "time now for everyone to recommit to working together".
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald made a statement wishing Mr Poots well in the political arena he now faced - which she described as "a new political landscape in the north, across the island and indeed between our two islands".
"Change is happening and we need to prepare for it," she added.
“Sinn Féin wants power sharing to work and we are strongly committed to making our political institutions work so that we can create a better, fairer and more equal society for all."
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney tweeted his congratulations to Mr Poots, stating: “I wish him well as new DUP leader & look forward to engaging & working with him on shared challenges and mutual benefit N/S.”
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 14, 2021
And the Taoiseach Micheál Martin congratulated Poots in a statement.
“His appointment comes at a critical time when it is ever more important for us to work together to keep the peace process firmly on track and to promote prosperity on both a North/South and East/West basis,” Mr Martin said.
“I wish Edwin every success in his new role and look forward to working closely with him, and all of the parties in Northern Ireland, to support peace, stability and progress in Northern Ireland and the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Outgoing DUP leader Arlene Foster announced her resignation from the position last month, confirming she would leave the role on May 28.