N. Ireland Politics

Ulster Unionist Party confirm Robin Swann as new leader

Robin Swann
Image caption Last month, Robin Swann told the BBC that unionism needed to have "champions for the union"

New Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann has said a single unionist party would "limit choice and stifle debate".

He was speaking at the party's annual general meeting where he was confirmed as leader.

He was the only candidate for the position, after Mike Nesbitt resigned from the role last month.

That was after the party's disappointing performance in March's election.

Mr Swann, who has served as an MLA for North Antrim since 2011, told members that the electorate "must be given hope and they must see it being delivered".

"So to those who seek a single unionist party, I ask them to consider carefully the consequences of such an outcome.

"A single unionist party would limit choice, stifle debate and quickly result in the depletion of unionist votes at the ballot box."

'Won't be pushed around'

He also told members that there should be no "back-door deals" in the current Stormont talks process.

He added that he would not rule out the party re-joining the executive but only if a deal can be agreed by all parties.

"If these talks end up being talks and agreements made by two parties for the benefit of two parties, then I say let it be an executive of two parties.

"Standing at the great height of 5ft 3ins-ish, I have had my experiences of people trying to bully me and push me around.

"Trust me, I have never been pushed around, nor do I intend starting to let people push me around, nor will I allow this party to be pushed around."

'Champions of unionism'

Mr Swann previously served as the party's chief whip at Stormont, chaired the Public Accounts Committee during the last assembly's mandate and is former president of the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster.

The UUP is now the fourth biggest party in the assembly, having been overtaken by the SDLP for the first time.

Last month, Mr Swann told BBC Radio Ulster's The Sunday News programme that unionism needs to have "champions for the union".

"Unionism has a lot to offer but it's also making that union attractive to everybody in Northern Ireland so they know the benefits that are there and it's about promoting a positive unionism, a non-threatening unionism and a unionism that can move forward and be progressive," he said.

Mr Swann will be the fourth leader of the UUP since David Trimble left the position in 2005.

The party has struggled to regain ground from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). It now has 10 MLAs at Stormont, two MPs at Westminster and one seat in the European Parliament.

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