Edwin Poots has been elected as the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), party chair Lord Morrow has announced.
Northern Ireland's pro-British party, the DUP elected Poots as its new leader on Friday as the region's largest party bids to ramp up its campaign against post-Brexit trade barriers.
Poots, Northern Ireland's agriculture minister, narrowly beat fellow senior member Jeffrey Donaldson at a time of instability in The North and unionist anger over the installation of a customs border with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The new leader pledged on Friday to unite the bickering strands of unionism to fight the Brexit deal and thus lay the foundations for keeping Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.
“The Northern Ireland protocol has proven to be a massive challenge for us and if we are to fight this, to ensure that everybody in Northern Ireland is not worse off as a consequence of the protocol, then it is for us to do that together," Edwin Poots said after being elected as the new leader.
“This party has been the authentic voice of unionism and will continue to be the authentic voice of unionism under my leadership,” he said.
He said he will be a leader in unionism who will be reaching out to other leaders in unionism as well.
DUP Leadership Election Result https://t.co/D8GopBAlgo
— DUP (@duponline) May 14, 2021
Among the proposals is the establishment of a strategic policy body to “deliver the leadership and policy ambitions of the party”.
Mr Poots has a long tradition in the party. His father, the late Charlie Poots, is attributed as one the founding members of the party alongside the late Ian Paisley senior in 1971.
His son followed in his footsteps, starting his political career on Lisburn City Council, and he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.
Since then, Mr Poots has held four ministerial portfolios – culture, environment, health, and he is currently agriculture minister.
His current job could be regarded as a comfortable fit for the Lisburn man who comes from a farming background, however the role became less so at times as the minister with responsibility for implementing the checks required under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
2021 has also been a challenging year for Mr Poots personally having received a diagnosis of kidney cancer, discovered by chance when he underwent surgery on a burst appendix before Christmas.
He briefly stepped aside from his ministerial portfolio in February but was back at his desk by early March following a successful operation.
Identified as coming from the more hardline/religious fundamentalist wing of the party, Mr Poots also has a reputation of enjoying good working relationships.
He raised chuckles in the Assembly chamber earlier this month in a fond tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh when he told MLAs he empathised with how “attempts at humour could become gaffes”.
Amid the recent rumblings of discontent against outgoing DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mr Poots made little secret of his political ambitions and has long been seen by many as the leading contender to replace her.
Additional reporting by PA