The first unionist elected to the Seanad has joined the Ulster Unionist Party.

Former senator Ian Marshall from Co Armagh said he had been persuaded to join a political party for the first time by new UUP leader Doug Beattie.

Mr Marshall, a former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, is now expected to run as a UUP candidate in next May's Assembly election.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I never wanted to join a political party until now. Doug offers a new, revitalised, positive and progressive unionism.

"He approached me several months ago and everything he said chimed with my own beliefs.

"I hope that I can help in reaching out to people who have been turned off by the big egos and loud voices which have for too long tended to dominate unionism.

"A moderate, considerate position is needed now more than ever as Brexit and Covid impact on people's lives.

"It's essential that we move on from identity politics to focus on things that are a priority for most people - the economy, jobs, healthcare, housing and building good relationships across this island and between our two islands."

Mr Marshall told the Belfast Telegraph he had "no problem whatsoever" with an Irish Language Act.

He said: "I had to vote in Irish for two years in the Oireachtas and that presented no difficulties for me. I am strong in my unionism, and the Irish language is no threat to it."

The UUP said it was "delighted" to welcome its latest recruit.

"Ian brings a wealth of experience and commitment that leads me to believe he will be a progressive voice for the future," said Mr Beattie.

Mr Marshall was the first unionist to be elected to the Seanad in 2018, as an independent.

He lost his seat in April last year.