DUP stand aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will not stand in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency in the upcoming general election, Gavin Robinson has confirmed.

He was speaking after being ratified as DUP leader by the party’s ruling executive.

The party had held talks with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and TUV about possible agreement on a non-party unity candidate.

But Mr Robinson said that as the UUP has already announced a candidate, the DUP would stand aside and encourage unionists to vote for the UUP.

The party also confirmed it will not stand a candidate in North Down, instead opting to endorse independent unionist Alex Easton.

The DUP has previously stood aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

In 2015, it backed the UUP's Tom Elliott, who won the seat from Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin re-took the seat in 2017 but, in 2019, it held on by just 57 votes, making it the most marginal seat in the UK.

What did Gavin Robinson tell DUP party officers?

Mr Robinson addressed his party executive in Lisburn, after it was confirmed he would lead the DUP into the election.

The East Belfast MP was appointed interim leader by party officers in March.

It came after the resignation of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, after he was charged with rape and other historical sex offences.

Mr Robinson said that in the interests of "trying to win the seat for a unionist candidate the party has decided not to field a DUP candidate for this election only" in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

He said the DUP would encourage all unionists in the constituency to vote for the UUP's Diana Armstrong.

Earlier, it emerged that the head of the Royal College of Nursing has stepped down to run for Sinn Féin in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Mr Robinson also said he was looking forward to leading his DUP team into the election with "energy and purpose".

He addressed Northern Ireland’s place in the union, following arrangements agreed by the DUP and the government aimed at addressing the Irish Sea border.

He said the party would send a clear message to the next government - whether Labour or Conservative - that there was still work to do to improve those new arrangements.

“We will continue to fight to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom, including removing the application of EU law in our country and the internal Irish Sea Border it creates."

He said he was urging all unionist voters to set aside “internal debate” in the aim of maximising unionist representation at Westminster.

In the 2019 Westminster election, the DUP won the most seats in Northern Ireland with eight.

But it now has seven after former party leader Sir Jeffrey was suspended from the party.

The DUP is also the second largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, which sits at Stormont.

Earlier this month, Sir Jeffrey's solicitor confirmed the former DUP leader will not be standing in the next general election.

John McBurney said his client will be "concentrating on the case and defending the charges".

A full list of candidates standing in all 18 constituencies will be available on BBC News NI when nominations close on 7 June.

A graphic which reads 'more on general election 2024'
[BBC]