Northern Ireland

No contenders to follow Elliott into UUP leader role

PACEMAKER
Image caption The outgoing UUP leader Tom Elliott

Possible candidates for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist party have refused to be drawn on whether they will put their names forward.

It follows the dramatic step down by Tom Elliott on Thursday after leading the party for just 18 months.

Those thought to be in the running are deputy leader John McCallister, Roads Minister Danny Kennedy and MLAs Basil McCrea and Mike Nesbitt.

Party officers are due to meet in the next few days.

Candidates must hand in their nomination forms by Friday 16 March, in time for the party's AGM on 31 March.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster, Mr McCallister said: "I have enormous respect for Tom. He is decent, honourable and a man of integrity."

Mr Kennedy refused to be drawn on whether he would run for party leader.

Talking about Mr Elliott, he said: "His integrity and honesty were clearly shown. It was a very bruising experience for him.

"I am not going to engage or speculate. There will be ample time for candidates to indicate a number of individuals who are perfectly capable of leading the party."

Mr McCrea said: "He was a very decent man who has his heart in the right place. After the election, whatever differences we had were put behind us."

Mr Nesbitt also refused to be drawn on whether he was seeking the leadership.

He told BBC NI's political correspondent Martina Purdy that he was in listening mode and would serve the party in any way he was asked.