Army Veteran Doug Beattie Deemed Elected As New Leader Of Ulster Unionist Party

Doug Beattie, who served as a soldier for 34 years, was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in combat.

Decorated Army veteran Doug Beattie has been deemed elected as the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

The Upper Bann Assembly member will succeed the resigning Steve Aiken - a Royal Navy veteran - in the role after it was confirmed he was the only candidate to put his name forward for election.

Party chair Danny Kennedy told a Stormont press conference that Mr Beattie was therefore deemed elected, subject to ratification by the party council on 27 May.

Mr Beattie served as a soldier for 34 years and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in combat.

The 55-year-old has established a reputation at Stormont as one of his party's most liberal voices on a variety of social issues, including abortion and LGBT rights.

Mr Beattie promised a "progressive and unifying" agenda.

"I feel the weight of expectation on my shoulder, we are an historic party, we are the party of [Edward] Carson and [James] Craig, but we are a modernising party and we are a party that wants to reach out," he said.

"And we will do that by reforming our message, by reforming our party structures, by bringing in more females and more young people, making our policies better understood and more crystallised and reaching to everybody to say that this is Northern Ireland, a place that we all want to live in, and let’s all work together to be able to live here."

Cover image: Library photo of Doug Beattie outside Stormont (Picture: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo).