THE FERMANAGH councillor who has been the favourite to replace outgoing MLA Arlene Foster may have some competition when it comes to taking her seat in Stormont.
Last week the former First Minister confirmed she would be leaving her seat at the end of September. Mrs Foster, who was forced to resign from her First Minister role following a DUP revolt earlier this year, had initially indicated she had planned to step down in June however has continued in her MLA role throughout the summer.
“As announced, I plan to step down from the Assembly,” Mrs Foster, who is now a regular on GB News, said last week. “The process for a co-option has already commenced and will be completed by the end of September.”
It had been expected, and widely reported, that she will be replaced by Cllr Deborah Erskine. She is the daughter of the rector of Tempo and Clabby, Rev Canon Maurice Armstrong, and her family are long time friends of Mrs Foster. She has also expressed strong public support for Mrs Foster since the DUP revolt.
The presumption Cllr Erskine would be filling the soon-to-be-vacant Stormont seat was further compounded by the fact she was passed over for the chairmanship of the Council this year. Many of Cllr Erskine’s fellow councillors had expected the Clabby woman to take up the chair of the Council earlier this year when it fell to the DUP, and where surprised on the night when she was not nominated by the party and the position was instead filled by her party colleague Cllr Errol Thompson.
However, a Dungannon councillor has since told one of the Herald’s sister publications he was interested in taking up Mrs Foster’s position in the Assembly.
Speaking to the Tyrone Herald last Friday, Cllr Clement Cuthbertson said: “Yes, it’s something I will be giving some consideration to in the coming days. Obviously there is an internal party process to go through and that will happen in the next few weeks.”
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