Edwin Poots has been elected the new leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
He beat Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to succeed outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster as head of the party.
Mr Poots pledged following his win to unite the bickering strands of unionism to fight the Brexit deal and 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,” he said after being elected as the new leader.
Mr Poots is a conservative politician and Young Earth creationist who believes the planet is 6,000 years old.
The Stormont Agriculture Minister was vying with the party’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey to replace Mrs Foster, who announced her resignation last month.
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Mrs Foster was ousted after an internal heave by party colleagues unhappy with her leadership and will step down from that role on May 28, and as First Minister at the end of June.
The voting by way of secret ballot took place at the party’s headquarters in Belfast on Friday afternoon.
The Lagan Valley MLA won by a slim majority of 19 votes to 17 in the poll carried out within the party’s 36-strong electoral college.
Reacting to his election, Mr Poots, who recently underwent cancer surgery, also praised the “resilience” of the people of Northern Ireland through the first 100 years of its existence.
“It’s that resilience that we are going to go forward and make Northern Ireland a good place,” he said in his address at DUP party headquarters in east Belfast.
“My father was a founder member of the DUP some 50 years ago, and I joined after the death of the Reverend Robert Bradford MP in 1981.
“Throughout all of that period this party has been the authentic voice of unionism and will continue to be the authentic voice of unionism under my leadership.”
I’m looking forward to a positive relationship right across Northern Ireland with my party colleagues and indeed with people from other parties.
The DUPs party’s eight MPs and 28 Assembly members voted in the leadership election.
Ahead of the vote, Sir Jeffrey and Mr Poots made their final pitches for support in a virtual hustings on Friday morning.
Paula Bradley was elected the party’s new deputy leader, defeating Gregory Campbell by 18 votes to 16.
Mr Poots’ election will now go to the party executive for ratification.
Last January, the Executive was finally re-formed after a three-year deep freeze, with Mrs Foster as First Minister and Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill as deputy first minister.