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Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie confirms bid to become next Ulster Unionist Party leader

'I do not want a hardened border on the island of Ireland, but neither do I want a border in the Irish Sea'

Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie has confirmed his intention to run for the post of Ulster Unionist Party leader.

The former Army captain, who has decorated with the Military Cross for his service, is seeking to replace Steve Aiken.

The South Antrim MLA confirmed at the weekend that he was resigning, saying the time was right for a new leadership.

He has agreed to remain in place until a successor was chosen.

Speculation immediately turned to who would replace Mr Aiken with political commentators immediately homing in on Mr Beattie as a likely possibility.

And tonight (Monday), he has confirmed that he will put himself forward.

Mr Beattie has already outlined a number of issues which he feels need to be focussed on.

Most recently, he won widespread praise for tabling a motion in the Assembly seeking a ban on so-called gay conversion therapy.

And on the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has led to protests over recent weeks, he is quite clear.

Speaking on BBC Newsline this evening, he said the UUP had an alternative “ready to go”, adding that it was damaging to the Good Friday Agreement, a view shared in a letter endorsed by unionist signatories to the GFA including his former party leader, the now Lord Trimble.

Said Mr Beattie: “I do not want a hardened border on the island of Ireland, but neither do I want a border in the Irish Sea.”

In a statement, he said he wanted to create a Northern Ireland where “people want to live regardless of identity, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity”.

And Mr Beattie added: “I want to build a union of people where everyone feels comfortable being who they want to be with a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose

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