Edwin Poots has been elected leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) on the promise of remoulding Northern Ireland’s biggest party and ratcheting up opposition to the Irish Sea border.
The Stormont agriculture minister on Friday beat Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, a DUP Westminster MP, in a two-horse race to succeed Arlene Foster, who announced she was quitting as party leader and first minister after an internal revolt last month.
Poots, 55, is a young Earth creationist from the party’s conservative Christian wing who believes the planet is 6,000 years old.
He said he would appoint a party colleague as first minister so that he could focus on restructuring the DUP and marshal opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that puts checks on goods entering the region from Great Britain.
The result underlined the party’s antipathy to the old guard led by Foster and anger at the sea border, which has inflamed loyalist protests.
The electorate comprised the DUP’s eight Westminster MPs and 28 Stormont assembly members. Campaigning took place behind closed doors and in private phone calls. It was the first leadership contest in the party’s 50-year history.