East Antrim DUP MLA and Executive Office Minister Alastair Ross has announced that he intends on stepping down from the Assembly at the end of this mandate.

Mr Ross first took his seat in 2007 and has served three terms of office over the past decade.

Mr Ross said,

"It has been an enormous privilege to represent the people of East Antrim at the Northern Ireland Assembly for the past ten years, but I had taken a decision when elected in May 2016 that it would be my final election.

The past ten years has had its challenges, but there is no doubt that devolution is important for Northern Ireland and that having local representatives taking decisions is immeasurably better than direct rule.

It is therefore deeply frustrating that Sinn Fein has decided to collapse the institutions and force an early election exactly at a time when we should be focussing on issues such as RHI, hospital waiting lists, leaving the European Union, getting a sustainable budget in place and growing the economy.

For a decade now the DUP has led the Executive and over that time we have seen record levels of investment, growth in our tourism sector and major events coming to Northern Ireland. We have also frustrated efforts of republicans to deliver their own narrow agenda and in the process seen support for the Union at its highest level since the formation of the State.

During that time I am particularly proud of my work in regard to criminal justice reform, playing my part in bringing the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland and my stand against dangerous presumed consent legislation.

One of the most fulfilling parts of the job has been the ability to help people who feel like they have nowhere else to turn, and I would particularly like to thank my staff for the professional way in which they dealt with the varied and often challenging cases that people presented.

I have also had the opportunity to work with some amazing people in the constituency who work tirelessly to improve their local community.

As I prepare to step down from public office I also want to pay tribute to my friend and Party Leader Arlene Foster. Arlene has been subjected to the most unfair and relentless campaign against her in recent months, but over my time at Stormont I can genuinely say that I have not seen anyone devote more time, energy or commitment to improving the lives of people in Northern Ireland than Arlene Foster.

East Antrim also enjoys a high quality slate of DUP representatives including our MP Sammy Wilson, MLAs and local Councillors.

This election is about who people want to lead this country and I intend on continuing to do what I can to ensure that unionism continues to be led by a strong DUP team.”

Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017