Robin’s Swannsong as he steps down as UUP Leader

01 October 2019 - by Claire Flynn

Robin Swann has announced he will not be putting his name forward for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party at the next AGM. Mr Swann announced his intentions to step down as leader, citing the need to spend more time with his young family.

With the announcement there has already been early speculation on who will take over the reins of leadership with a number of names coming to the fore.  Early out of the blocks to declare his interest was Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie, with speculation of interest from South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken, and the potential return of former leader and Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt.  There is also a potential for an outside candidate putting their name forward, with Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler one to watch.

Unlike other MLAs, Robin Swann has confirmed his intention to remain as an MLA for North Antrim.  But recently we have seen a number of high profile MLAs leave politics behind for new positions outside politics.  This includes former Executive Minister Simon Hamilton, who has taken over as the Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, and former Green Party Leader Steven Agnew, who has recently been appointed as Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Renewables Group.

While Robin Swann’s announcement may have come as a shock to many, both inside and outside the UUP, where he was seen as a safe pair of hands, this may not be the only change of leadership in the months ahead.  Michelle O’Neill will face a challenge from John O’Dowd as Vice President of Sinn Féin at the next Ard Fheis, and continued speculation over Arlene Foster’s position as DUP Leader depending of the outcome of the RHI Inquiry. 

What we can be sure of, is that politics in Northern Ireland is never dull.