25 June 2005


Empey new Ulster Unionist leader

Empey has won the Ulster Unionist leadership race

East Belfast assembly member Sir Reg Empey has been elected as the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The ex-Stormont enterprise minister, 57, was selected after a vote by 618 members of the party's ruling council.

He was elected in the second count with 321 votes. Ex-Army major Alan McFarland got 287 votes. Strangford MLA David McNarry was eliminated after one count.

Sir Reg succeeds David Trimble who quit after he and all but one of his MPs were defeated in the general election.

Sir Reg, who was tipped to win the contest, becomes the 13th leader of the party.

Empey profiled

He said he was under "absolutely no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead".

"It's a mammoth task but we have faced great adversity before and we will meet the challenge," he said.

Senior negotiator

When he announced his intention to stand, it emerged Sir Reg had the backing of more than half the party's MLAs as well as its MEP, Jim Nicholson.

Sir Reg said the UUP was guilty of "not listening" to its supporters and vowed to change that if he became leader.

He was a senior negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McNarry, who was the first man to throw his hat in the ring for the leadership contest, had said he wanted change and to "take the party out of denial".

Former soldier Alan McFarland, who had the backing of the party's sole MP Sylvia Hermon, said he was leading a "grass-roots rebellion" had he won the contest.

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